Kyle Kirkwood won the first race of his IndyCar career on Sunday by beating Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean on the streets of downtown Long Beach.

Kirkwood a day earlier won the pole for the Long Beach Grand Prix and the Jupiter, Florida native then wrapped up victory in America’s most prestigious street race.

«I’m over the moon,» said Kirkwood, who blinked back tears.

He was challenged midway through the race by defending Long Beach winner Josef Newgarden, but retook the lead when the Team Penske driver pitted for new tires. Kirkwood was left out for a further handful of laps and was able to make his stop to change tires and get back on track before Newgarden could retake the lead.

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Marcus Ericsson, left, Michael Andretti, center, and Kyle Kirkwood attend a press conference for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race on Saturday, April 15, 2023 in Long Beach, California. (AP Photo/Jenna Fryer)

Newgarden, the winner two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway, dropped to sixth and Kirkwood’s main rivals in the final laps were Grosjean and Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing.

But neither got close enough to attempt the win pass, and Kirkwood celebrated his first win under Andretti.

He was part of Andretti’s development system, but the team didn’t have an available IndyCar seat for him when it came time to promote him last season. Instead, Kirkwood spent the year driving for AJ Foyt Racing, returning to Andretti this season as a replacement for Alexander Rossi.

Team owner Michael Andretti has such faith in the 24-year-old that he made a personnel change two weeks ago to move Bryan Herta to Kirkwood’s timekeeping role as quarterback. Herta had spent the last two seasons as quarterback for his son, Colton.

«It’s great for a young driver,» Andretti said. «I think he helped Colton a lot when he started. I think we felt he was better for the team.»

Grosjean finished second and was followed by Ericsson, Colton Herta and Ganassi’s Alex Palou as the Honda riders swept the top five.

Kyle Kirkwood competes during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race on Sunday, April 16, 2023 in Long Beach, California.  Kirkwood won the race.

Kyle Kirkwood competes during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race on Sunday, April 16, 2023 in Long Beach, California. Kirkwood won the race. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Team Penske’s Will Power was the best-finishing Chevrolet in sixth place. Newgarden faded to ninth.

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ILOTT LONG WEEKEND

Callum Ilott entered Long Beach seventh in the IndyCar standings and one of only six drivers to post top-10 finishes in the first two races.

His success ended early.

Ilott crashed before qualifying on Saturday when he ran over a curb that had not been on the track during practice on Friday. IndyCar did not inform the teams that the curb had been installed overnight, and Ilott felt the series should pay Juncos Hollinger Racing for damages caused by the crash.

On Sunday, Ilott had to pit with a blown tire early in the race and lost a lap off pace. He finished 19.

Agustín Canapino, meanwhile, led the first lap of his IndyCar career, but the rookie from Argentina was later eliminated from the race for his first DNF of the season on a disappointing day for JHR.

CASTRONEVES ACCIDENT

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves crashed on the first lap and barely made it away in time to stay on the lead lap. The Brazilian drove his injured car back to the pits without his front wing and Meyer Shank Racing worked hard to get Castroneves back on track.

It was the second time in three races this season that Castroneves crashed on the first lap. Both he and his teammate Simon Pagenaud were eliminated from the season opener in a multi-car crash at turn three.

Castroneves finished 21.

Winner Kyle Kirkwood, center, celebrates with second place Romain Grosjean, left, of Switzerland, and third place Marcus Ericsson during the victory ceremony for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race on Sunday, April 16, 2023, at in Long Beach.  California

Winner Kyle Kirkwood, center, celebrates with second place Romain Grosjean, left, of Switzerland, and third place Marcus Ericsson during the victory ceremony for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race on Sunday, April 16, 2023, at in Long Beach. California (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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UNTIL NEXT TIME

IndyCar racing on April 30 at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Duck O’Ward is the defending winner of the race. IndyCar also has two days of testing scheduled at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week.