NASHVILLE (Aug. 7, 2022) — The music stopped and AJ Foyt Racing was left without a chair in the second edition of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Torrential rain delayed the start of the race by over 90 minutes, but once the race got underway, the game of musical chairs began.
In the opening laps of the race, both Dalton Kellett, who started 12th in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet, and Kyle Kirkwood who started 16th in the Sexton Properties Chevrolet, were running one of their best races of the season. Unfortunately, neither driver finished.
Although Kellett slipped from 12th to 18th early on, he was running a good pace when the first round of pit stops began following the second full course caution on lap 22, for Helio Castroneves’ spin in Turn 3. Most of the field ducked into the pits for service.
This first stop on lap 21 was pivotal in the race strategy.
In a fortunate turn of events, Kirkwood had pitted a lap earlier and was able to leapfrog from 13th to fourth when the field pitted, prompting race strategist Larry Foyt to say, “Maybe our luck is turning around.”
However, when the race restarted on lap 25, Kellett was caught up in a multi-car crash in Turn 6 that forced at least six cars to the pits, some of whom were able to return to the race. Kellett could not and finished 25th.
Kellett follows close behind Takuma Sato.
Kellett explained, “We got caught up in the accordion effect, a bit of a pileup in that back part of the
track going up into Turn 6 and there was nowhere really to go. Got into the back of Dixon and then Simona (DeSilvestro) hit me from behind. There’s a sensor in the back of the gearbox that if that gets broken off, you can’t shift and that’s basically what happened to us.
“Not the way we wanted our weekend to end here in Nashville after our best qualifying so far in the NTT INDYCAR Series,” he added. “Definitely leaving here taking the positives away from this weekend that we can, you know with a good qualifying performance and we made good strategy calls. There was also some pace that we found that I don’t think we’ve had before, so that was a good confidence boost for the whole team and for myself as well, so looking forward to taking that into the remaining road courses. Next up we’ve got Gateway (World Wide Technology Raceway) and that was a good race for us last year. We test there next week, so hoping that goes well and that should be an exciting race.”
On that same restart, Kirkwood dropped from fourth to sixth after being passed by David Malukas and Scott McLaughlin but Foyt calmed his driver, reminding him there was a lot of racing left. On the next restart on lap 33, Kirkwood moved into fifth after passing Jimmie Johnson and he ran there until the fifth full course caution of the day unfolded for the Takuma Sato and Devlin DeFrancesco incident in Turn 10 on lap 52.
Kirkwood passes Jimmie Johnson for fifth and trails Scott McLaughlin.
This time Kirkwood got leapfrogged by several cars who had pitted just before the caution. He dropped to 10th despite the quick stop. When the race restarted, he gained three spots in one lap only to have officials rule that he jumped the restart; he had to drop back to ninth. In a couple laps, he moved into eighth and was realistically seventh since leader Josef Newgarden still had to pit and Kirkwood did not.
On lap 64, Kirkwood was making a move on Malukas when the two rookies made contact in Turn 9 and both ended up in the tire barrier ending their day. Kirkwood injured his right hand and it requires further examination to determine the extent of the injury which he will have done this week.
Foyt and Kirkwood after the race.
“Honestly it was a fantastic race overall up until the lap that it ended for us,” said Kirkwood when he returned to the paddock from the track’s medical center. “Fantastic strategy by the team cycled us up into what I think was P4 on strategy, and it was really close to even being further up than that. We cycled back a few spots after some other people got lucky on a caution, but then boom right away, we’re back into hunting for what seemed like a podium. Looking at the end of the race there, we were right behind Scott McLaughlin and he was fighting for the win at the end of the race, and that’s where I felt like we should have been, so I was pushing everything I had. David Malukas was probably about a second off the pace, and I went to pass him and I just don’t think he saw me going for the lunge on the inside of turn nine. I did the same move on Simon Pagenaud and he was aware of the situation, but I guess I’ve got to look into it more, but that was just unfortunate. We were pushing super hard to try and get a podium because that’s what I think this team deserves at the moment.”
Malukas was penalized for “avoidable contact” and dropped to 20th while Kirkwood was scored in 19th.
One who always seems to snag a chair when the music stops is Scott Dixon. He won his 53rd INDYCAR race thus moving past Mario Andretti into second place on the all-time victories list, trailing behind only A.J. Foyt, who has 67 triumphs. Dixon was involved in the lap 25 melee that claimed Kellett but after six pitstops, five more cautions and 55 more laps, it was Dixon taking the checkers.
Following him across the line were: pole winner Scott McLaughlin, Alex Palou (with a broken front wing), Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta (both of whom were involved in early accidents). The next race on the schedule is the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway which will be broadcast on the USA Network at 6 p.m. ET.