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Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood showed a lot of promise at the Texas Motor Speedway oval in April and again in May at the Indianapolis 500, but quality finishes were derailed by contact in both races that weren’t a byproduct of driving errors.

Combine those two unrewarding outcomes with a rough introduction to IndyCar oval racing as a rookie last year with A.J. Foyt Racing, and the young Floridian had plenty of reasons to feel encouraged by his run to seventh on Saturday at Iowa, his best oval result to date.

The 2021 Indy Lights champion also led the entire Andretti team home, with stablemate Romain Grosjean the closest behind him, 17s back in 11th.

“We learned a lot just now,” Kirkwood said. “Felt like we had really good pace in the stints, which was something that I think was surprising for us. So we were a little bit different than our teammates, and I think we’re all able to build off of that, based on what my pace was, especially at the end of stints. We had a couple of times to where we were just an absolute rocket ship.”

The 24-year-old was strong in the latter stages of the race and wants to see what he and his race engineer Jeremy Milless can find to take the No. 27 Honda closer to the podium in Sunday’s 250-lap closer to the event.

“I want to say our third stint, the No. 27 car was on rails, and we need to go back and look to see exactly what that was, and probably tune on it and get in that window for tomorrow, because that’s when we really made up those positions,” Kirkwood said.

“So we’re going to look into it, see what we can get and roll into the race tomorrow with hopefully a car that’s even better than today.”