A bright blue sky emerged just as the US Navy’s F/A-18 fighter jets roared above Shoreline Drive to signal the start of the 48th Annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach’s main event. That set the stage for a sunny day for NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Kyle Kirkwood, Honda Racing, the Andretti family tradition and the fans.
Kirkwood of Andretti Autosport won his first INDYCAR race, a feat that brought back some very happy memories for team owner Michael Andretti, who in 1986 earned his first (and, in 2002, his final) INDYCAR victory on this very track.
The Andretti legend at Long Beach began when Michael’s father Mario won in 1977 in the race’s infancy, putting the event on the worldwide map as a premier motorsports event. Mario went on to win three more times here.
“There’s so many things we’ve done at Long Beach,” Michael said almost searching for words to express his overflowing emotions. “It’s all just very special for us.”
“I watched this race as a kid,” Kirkwood said. “I’m going to let it soak in for a while.”
Honda Racing will also let it soak in, as it took not just the win but the top five places. It was a dominating performance for the Torrance-based manufacturer on its home track.
The day began with a flashback to the past with the Historic F1 Challenge featuring some Formula 1 cars that race here in the pre-INDYCAR days, including Mario’s black Lotus that propelled him to that landmark ‘77 victory. It ended with the ramp-jumping SPEED/ UTV Stadium SUPER Trucks and the Porsche Carrera North America Cup race.
The fans let the day soak in, too, seasoned ones as well as Grand Prix rookies. “Cheering for our ‘pretty in pink’ car!!” one stated while experiencing the GP for the first time from her perch in grandstand 27.
Throughout the day the fans feasted on the racing action, the food, the drinks and the overall scene of the Grand Prix that has made this an annual mark-your-calendars event in Southern California.
All of which has everyone looking forward to the 49th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will take place April 19-21.