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Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 10) -- Kyle Kirkwood will start 17th and Dalton Kellett will line up 24th on the grid for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

It appeared Kirkwood might catch a lucky break in his session as his No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet was sitting atop his group when the red flag came out for Josef Newgarden's spin in the Corkscrew. However, the AMR safety crew was able to successfully remove Newgarden before the session ended allowing everyone to get in a single solid timed lap. Kirkwood was quicker on his second run but not quick enough to transfer into Round 2.

"We were one of the few to do red-red (Firestone alternate tires) and it almost paid off for us," explained Kirkwood. "We were in the lead for the first half of qualifying and with the red flag coming out we almost got super lucky there, but ultimately we qualified P9 in our group. So not exactly where we wanted to be but I think we found some pace between practice 1, practice 2 and qualifying so we’re constantly progressing. We’ll go into the final practice tomorrow morning hopefully with a good race car. The big thing here is making the tires last, so if we can do that - we’ve got a lot of people starting around us that should be up front as well - hopefully we can just move forward from there."

Kirkwood testing Firestone's alternative compound tires in practice.

Kellett was hampered by having to do a drive-through midway through the session due to exceeding the pit lane speed limit during qualifying. However, he noted that the team made gains from where they started the weekend with the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet.

"Not quite where we wanted to end up but overall, I think we had decent pace at the end of practice on

new blacks and we banked on going red - reds, but then with everybody kind of checking up the first time, we didn't really get a clean run initially,” Kellett said. “Then on the second stint, got out and with it just being so tight coming into pit lane because we're in the first box, so it's kind of a like hand-over-hand awkward getting in there. Just missed getting on the pit lane speed limiter, which was fine coming in because we're so slow for that first box, but when I left for my second run, it wasn't latched on. So, I accelerated over the pit lane speed, and that's how we got a penalty there. So that's just the flow of getting in there and just got to make sure I get on that button before turning for that tight pit in. So having to do that half a lap and a bit and then drive through was just not good for the edge of the tires. But I think from where we were last year and started the weekend, we've tightened the gap on new tires. We'll have to see tomorrow how we progress over the length of the long run. That's the key here -- keeping the tires under you and trying to make the average stint pace as fast as possible. It's tough because the surface is so abrasive. So, we'll see what we have for warm up and kind of go from there for the race."

Kellett navigates the Corkscrew during practice.

Will Power won the pole to become the all-time leader in pole positions with 68. He also lengthened his points lead over closest rival and teammate Josef Newgarden who will start last after having his two quickest laps removed due to bringing out the red flag in his session. Power became the all-time leader in pole positionsRookie Callum Ilott will start outside pole. Rounding out the Firestone Fast 6 are: Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean, Alex Palou and Pato O'Ward.

After tomorrow morning's 30-minute warmup, NBC will start its pre-race coverage at 2:40 p.m. ET with the green flag set to drop at 3:30 p.m. ET.


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