ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After going fourth fastest in both practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Kyle Kirkwood was looking forward to his first Firestone Fast Six qualifying appearance in NTT IndyCar Series competition.
However, the Florida native locked up his left front tire and crashed before completing a single timed lap in the final round of qualifying.
The No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda went straight going into Turn 13, hitting the concrete barrier on the outside of the corner before slowly going back to pit lane with a heavily damaged left front corner.
.@KKirkwoodRacing’s pursuit of his first #INDYCAR pole position ends in Turn 14. pic.twitter.com/UvkMQ8ryYs
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) March 4, 2023
“Honestly I just locked up on entry,” Kirkwood said. “And with the way the downwind section is at the moment it’s a little bit sketchy. So I got around the corner and I still had a lot of weight unloaded on the left front, locked up and it is impossible to get the tire to unlock, so unfortunately I just ended up left front in the wall.
“So disappointing, it’s my first Fast Six so I can’t take anything away from that. The team’s been amazing, I couldn’t be happier with the way this has come. Obviously this is the least ideal situation, but ultimately we’re in the Fast Six with three cars in the Fast Six and we’re happy with that.”
To get to the Fast Six, Kirkwood was third fastest in his round one group and second fastest in the second round. The 2018 USF2000 champion used a second set of the alternate compound Firestone tires earlier in qualifying to get to the final round and felt the pressure going into the six minute session.
“I knew in this last [session] that I absolutely had to send it,” Kirkwood said. “And I actually wasn’t even pushing that hard yet. It was just the way the cold tires were and the ride heights and the way it was loaded, it was just an awkward situation, unfortunately.”
Because Kirkwood’s second round time was faster than Scott McLaughlin’s time, the 2021 Indy NXT champion will start ahead of the defending St. Petersburg race winner despite McLaughlin setting one timed lap before his own crash.
Andretti’s mechanics did have a sense of humor about the crash.
P5 in quali today. Locked up and ended our chances of going for the pole today. We’ll have a chance tomorrow in the #27 @AutoNation @HondaRacing_HPD ! Oh yeah, and I received my first trophy from @FollowAndretti pic.twitter.com/GFHYPcbOyC
— Kyle M. Kirkwood (@KKirkwoodRacing) March 4, 2023
Andretti Autosport teammates Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta qualified first and second. The 100-lap race will start at 12:30 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.