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IndyCar Nashville: Kirkwood wins by 0.7s after late red flag

Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood took his second IndyCar victory of the season on the streets of Nashville as series leader Alex Palou extended his advantage over Josef Newgarden with third.

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Kirkwood finished 0.7633s ahead of Team Penske’s polewinner Scott McLaughlin and series dominator Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing). The race was red-flagged in the closing stages for a multi-car pileup, but Kirkwood kept his cool for his second win of the season after breaking his duck at Long Beach.

Following an aborted start, McLaughlin led the field to green from Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren) and Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport), as an aggressive David Malukas (Dale Coyne Racing) briefly grabbed fourth from a tentative Palou. Romain Grosjean (Andretti) was the leading car that started on the harder primary tyre in sixth.

Kirkwood, who started eighth, made a bold move on fellow primary starter Will Power (Penske) for seventh, while Penske’s Newgarden – who also started on the primary – dropped back to 10th behind Toronto winner Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

McLaughlin pulled 2.7s clear of O’Ward, as Herta fell back into the clutches of Palou. After also being passed by Grosjean and Kirkwood, Malukas pitted for primaries on lap 12 but caused the race’s first yellow a lap later when his rear wing collapsed on the run to Turn 4, following a sudden release of heat from underneath the engine cover.

Surprisingly, Palou was the only one of the leaders to pit under yellow, rejoining 22nd, but didn’t get as much fuel in the tank as the team had planned.

The race went green again on lap 16, with O’Ward getting into the back of McLaughlin in a messy restart in which Herta got shuffled wide into the wall. Herta tumbled to sixth, having been hit by Kirkwood and Power, then pitted for new primaries, reporting damage over the radio. He rejoined in 25th.

McLaughlin pulled clear at the front by 4s, as O’Ward fought a rearguard action with Grosjean and Kirkwood on his tail. Power ran fifth, ahead of early pitter Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing).

Now struggling hugely with his tyres, O’Ward ran wide at Turn 9, allowing Grosjean and then Kirkwood past. Power and VeeKay also passed the Mexican before he pitted on lap 24.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

McLaughlin came in on lap 25, allowing Grosjean to lead from Kirkwood, Power, VeeKay and Newgarden. McLaughlin rejoined in 19th.

Grosjean pitted from the lead on lap 28 and was followed in by the majority of the leaders – although Kirkwood ran a lap later. Marcus Ericsson, the inaugural winner of this event, took a turn in the lead for CGR.

Palou was the net leader at this point, ahead of Kirkwood, Grosjean and McLaughlin. O’Ward was the big loser of the opening pit cycle, having stayed out too long on his first set of tyres, losing further spots to Newgarden, Ganassi's Scott Dixon, VeeKay and Power.

Palou hit the front for real on lap 33, 1.5s clear of Kirkwood. Series debutant Linus Lunqvist, who qualified an impressive 11th for Meyer Shank Racing, had followed Palou’s strategy route and jumped up to third. Grosjean and McLaughlin demoted him to fifth just before half distance, Lundqvist’s drive even more impressive given his mandatory cockpit airscoop had fallen off.

Palou led Kirkwood (now running alternates) by just under a second at half distance, with Grosjean repelling McLaughlin's advances behind.

Palou stopped on lap 45, and almost caught a yellow when Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti) overshot a corner but managed to find reverse and rejoin. Palou dropped to 16th but was now loaded with a brimmed fuel tank and primary tyres.

Grosjean ran wide at Turn 9 on lap 49, gifting second to McLaughlin. Alexander Rossi (McLaren) and VeeKay got together on the approach to Turn 4, sending VeeKay flying down the escape road but, again, there was no caution.

Kirkwood pitted on lap 51, handing the lead to McLaughlin, but crucially rejoined ahead of Palou. McLaughlin stopped a tour later, rejoining between Kirkwood and Palou. Grosjean then pitted from the lead, for a run to the finish in alternates, but the poor end to his stint put him behind Newgarden, Dixon, O’Ward and Power.

With 25 laps remaining, Kirkwood led McLaughlin by 2.5s from Palou, Newgarden, Dixon, Ericsson and O’Ward. Grosjean picked off Power and O’Ward, with Lundgaard doing likewise behind him.

Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport Honda

Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Palou was just about to bail out of his ambitious fuel-saving strategy when the yellow he needed came out with 10 laps to go, as Lundqvist’s impressive debut ended in the Turn 11 wall. Jack Harvey, who was running 14th for Rahal, also hit the wall when the wheel was snatched out of his hands at Turn 8.

That led to a restart with seven laps remaining, with Kirkwood leading McLaughlin, Palou, Newgarden, Dixon, Ericsson, Grosjean and Lundgaard. But the yellow came out again almost immediately when Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren), Agustin Canapino (Juncos Hollinger Racing) and Benjamin Pedersen (AJ Foyt Racing) got tangled up at Turn 11. Herta’s car also sustained terminal damage after he clashed with Ryan Hunter-Reay (ECR), and IndyCar decided to throw the red flag to clean up the track.

Ahead of the final restart, Grosjean was given a free pass on Ericsson – who was called for a blocking penalty.

The green flew again with four laps to go, with Kirkwood leading McLaughlin, Palou, Newgarden, Dixon and Grosjean. Kirkwood pulled away by 1.3s as Canapino went off at Turn 1, but the race stayed green. Further back, O’Ward passed Lundgaard for eighth.

Despite his fuel concerns, Palou put the pressure on McLaughlin but the order remained the same to the finish, with Kirkwood beating McLaughlin by 0.7633s. Palou defied title rival Newgarden to complete the podium, with Dixon claiming fifth from Grosjean, Ericsson, O’Ward, Lundgaard and Power.

IndyCar Nashville Race Results (80 laps):

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval Mph Pits Points Retirement
1 United States K. Kirkwood Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 27 80 1:58'02.3028   95.713 3    
2 New Zealand S. McLaughlin Scott McLaughlin Team Penske 3 80 +0.7633 0.7633 95.980 3    
3 Spain A. Palou Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing 10 80 +1.7221 0.9588 95.376 3    
4 United States J. Newgarden Josef Newgarden Team Penske 2 80 +3.1416 1.4195 94.884 3    
5 New Zealand S. Dixon Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 9 80 +4.1655 1.0239 95.152 3    
6 France R. Grosjean Romain Grosjean Andretti Autosport 28 80 +5.9518 1.7863 94.791 3    
7 Sweden M. Ericsson Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing 8 80 +6.4148 0.4630 94.708 4    
8 Mexico P. O'Ward Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren 5 80 +6.6966 0.2818 95.250 3    
9 Denmark C. Lundgaard Christian Lundgaard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 45 80 +8.0168 1.3202 95.222 4    
10 Australia W. Power Will Power Team Penske 12 80 +9.0456 1.0288 94.769 3    
11 Brazil H. Castroneves Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing 06 80 +9.8718 0.8262 94.503 4    
12 United Kingdom C. Ilott Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing 77 80 +10.6859 0.8141 94.656 4    
13 New Zealand M. Armstrong Marcus Armstrong Chip Ganassi Racing 11 80 +11.4056 0.7197 94.324 4    
14 Netherlands R. van Kalmthout Rinus van Kalmthout Ed Carpenter Racing 21 80 +11.8172 0.4116 94.286 6    
15 United States G. Rahal Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 15 80 +14.2271 2.4099 93.635 4    
16 United States R. Hunter-Reay Ryan Hunter-Reay Ed Carpenter Racing 20 80 +14.6874 0.4603 94.480 5    
17
R. Robb Ray Robb Dale Coyne Racing
51 80 +15.1158 0.4284 94.821 5    
18 United States S. Ferrucci Santino Ferrucci A.J. Foyt Enterprises 14 80 +16.5253 1.4095 93.637 5    
19 United States A. Rossi Alexander Rossi Arrow McLaren 7 78 +2 Laps 2 Laps 88.256 5    
20 Argentina A. Canapino Agustin Canapino Juncos Hollinger Racing 78 77 +3 Laps 1 Lap 79.465 6   Accident
21 United States C. Herta Colton Herta Andretti Autosport 26 76 +4 Laps 1 Lap 9.034 4   Mechanical
22 Sweden F. Rosenqvist Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren 6 73 +7 Laps 3 Laps 63.770 4   Accident
23 Denmark B. Pedersen Benjamin Pedersen A.J. Foyt Enterprises 55 73 +7 Laps 23.2274 56.125 5   Accident
24 United Kingdom J. Harvey Jack Harvey Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 30 71 +9 Laps 2 Laps 37.116 3   Accident
25 Sweden L. Lundqvist Linus Lundqvist Meyer Shank Racing 60 69 +11 Laps 2 Laps 96.268 3   Accident
26 Canada D. DeFrancesco Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Autosport 29 65 +15 Laps 4 Laps 93.617 3   Accident
27 United States D. Malukas David Malukas Dale Coyne Racing 18 11 +69 Laps 54 Laps 85.392 1   Mechanical

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