Can Kirkwood Raise the Bar at Foyt?

Photo: Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Kyle Kirkwood is used to making teams more competitive. He sees the same potential at A. J. Foyt Racing. His ride for next year, the 14 car, had two top 10s and two top fives in 2021 and finished 16th in the final standings. One top 10 and one top five came in the first two races of the year. Kirkwood believes he can improve he team’s results.

“I’ve worked in positions before where I’ve started with a
lower level team, if I look back at Indy Pro 2000, and I was
racing for RP Motorsports, I think they finished fifth or sixth
in the championship, they missed a couple races, but I saw
what the team wanted to do, and I believed in them, and
we ended up winning nine of the 16 races with the
championship,” Kirkwood said yesterday in a press availability.

He gets more satisfaction out of moving up during a race than he does out of winning from the pole.

“I get more satisfaction
from progressing than I do just from winning. We go out
front, and like quite honestly, if I have a race where — like
for instance, Laguna this past year. I started from the pole
and just led the entire race, but there’s no progression
throughout the weekend because we just had a car that
was good and we just kept — which those ones aren’t the
ones that are super enjoyable for me. The ones like
Portland where we’re qualifying fourth or fifth and being
able to go right to the front again based off of what I’m able
to do and what we’re able to do with the car and progress
through the weekend I think pays way more satisfaction to
me than anything else.


If we can take a car that, hey, maybe we don’t qualify that
well but we put together a really good race car and we’re
able to make up a bunch of positions, that’s way more
satisfactory to me than just being out front and sailing off
into the distance. Yeah, so at the end of the day I think
progression creates a lot more satisfaction for me,” Kirkwood explained.

Kirkwood’s path to Indycar began when A. J. Allmendinger selected him out of a karting program. He has progressed wirth the help of scholarships earned by winnuing at every level. Kirkwood doesn’t think he would be where is today without the start from Allmendinger.

“Pretty much my entire
career has been based off of scholarships and people
bringing me along, so I’m very thankful. Really that starts
all the way back from AJ Allmendinger back in 2012 where
he sponsored me in a karting scholarship. From there I
had a Skip Barber scholarship, a Team USA scholarship,
and then F4 I had the scholarship to F3, and then from
USF2000 I had the scholarship Indy Pro, scholarship into
Indy Lights. Without any of that, I definitely wouldn’t be in
this position right now because as everyone knows, it costs
a lot of money to do racing, and in those lower levels you
can’t really bring sponsorship along because there’s not
much return on investment for sponsors. Without the
scholarships I would not be at this point,” he said.

“At the time I was racing —
what was I, 13 years old racing Minimax, I believe, and we
did a national race together.
He (Allmendinger) had the scholarship program come out, and I had a
fantastic season and he decided to pick me. That’s how
the relationship came about, and yeah, I don’t think — I
probably wouldn’t have been able to compete in a lot of the
races that I raced in in 2012 and 2013, I believe, if it wasn’t
for him.”

While some fans may be disappointed that A. J. Foyt Racing is where he will start his Indycar career, Kirkwood is happy to be with the team.

“Oh, man, I’m absolutely over the
moon right now to be driving for AJ Foyt Racing in the No.
14, filling in some really big shoes with Bourdais leaving
like Larry mentioned and doing some sports car stuff. I’m
at a loss for words because I’m ecstatic.”

Kirkwood has one year deal with Foyt. Is next season just a stepping stone as he waits for a seat at Andretti to open? Several drivers have tried to make the 14 car competitive and have fallen short. I think Kirkwood gives them the best chance move up in the standings, but it depends on the team Larry Foyt assembles behind him.


Kirkwood Signs with Foyt

Photo from A J Foyt Racing Twitter

2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood signed with A. J. Foyt Racing for the 2022 Indycar season. I will have some thoughts on this tomorrow.

The team’s announcement:

WALLER, Texas (Nov. 10, 2021) — There is a buzz around the No. 14 Chevrolet fielded by A.J. Foyt — and it is not killer bees. AJ Foyt Racing has hired 2021 Indy Lights Champion Kyle Kirkwood to drive the No. 14 Chevrolet in the NTT INDYCAR Series next year.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kyle to the team,” said Team President Larry Foyt. “Obviously, he has been very successful on his climb through the Road to Indy Championships and his record speaks for itself. This deal came together rather quickly, but I’ve already been impressed with how Kyle thinks about racing and the maturity he seems to have for such a young driver. The NTT INDYCAR Series is as competitive as ever, and the challenges are great, but we feel Kyle will be a great asset as we take on those challenges and work to grow as a team.”

Kirkwood, 23, is the only driver to win championships in all three divisions of the Road to Indy (RTI) presented by Cooper Tires ladder system, and he did it in consecutive seasons: USF2000 in 2018, Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 and Indy Lights this year (the 2020 Indy Lights season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Kirkwood poses with his Indy Lights championship trophy at the Road to Indy Awards Dinner.

“I actually met Larry [Foyt] for the first time in 2018 at Road America when I was driving in USF2000 with Cape Motorsports,” revealed Kirkwood, who lives in Jupiter, Florida. “He was the first person in the INDYCAR paddock to show me around the car and explain the dynamics of what it takes to be an Indy car team and driver. From that moment, I felt very comfortable with the atmosphere of the team and now it has come to fruition that I will be driving the No. 14. It’s hard to explain in words the excitement I have to drive for such an experienced and legendary team. I know I will be filling some very big shoes, but I think it’s the perfect timing and group to be able to do so.

“Considering I have 19 years of experience driving, and it’s all led to this moment to becoming a full time Indy car driver — It’s truly a dream come true,” the Floridian continued. “It’s incredible seeing the completely unexpected path I took in previous years blossom into something I’ve always hoped for as a kid in karting.”

Kirkwood notched his 10th victory in the Indy Lights Series in the season finale doubleheader at Mid-Ohio. He won the first of two races.

This season’s Indy Lights championship battle came down to the final race weekend in October at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Driving for Andretti Autosport, Kirkwood clinched the title over runner-up David Malukas after winning the first race of the doubleheader and finishing fifth in the season finale. Kirkwood won 10 races (tying Greg Moore’s series record set in 1995) and seven poles in 20 races.

Kirkwood received his first kart at age four and began racing them a year later. He won numerous races and titles before moving into cars in 2016 when he competed in the inaugural F4 series. That same year he won a Team USA scholarship and competed at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone. In 2017, Kirkwood dominated the F4 U.S. Championship with nine victories and six poles in 20 races.

The following year, he won the Cooper Tires USF2000 title with 12 wins in 14 races driving for Cape Motorsports. He won 15 of 17 races to claim the F3 Americas Championship powered by Honda. Driving for RP Motorsports in 2019, he won the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with nine victories and five poles in 16 races. His move to the Indy Lights division was delayed when the pandemic halted racing in the Road to Indy ladder series in 2020.

Kirkwood poses with his team after winning the Indy Pro 2000 title in 2019.

Kirkwood has tested an Indy car three times, most recently at the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.

“What I’ve learned in my three Indy car tests is that the Indy Lights car and the Indy car are not massively different,” Kirkwood explained. “As we’ve seen with many drivers, it’s quite an easy transition. The best thing that you can take away from the RTI is the track experience. With minimal time during weekends, it’s crucial to maximize practice, having the track experience eliminates a period of time spent learning so you can solely focus on the car and driving.

“The biggest difference I’ve noticed in my tests is the tire. The Firestone tire creates a lot more grip. There are other differences, like steering weight, downforce and braking capabilities, but all of those are just a nice step forward from the Indy Lights car.”

When asked what he thinks his biggest challenge will be as a rookie driver entering the very competitive NTT INDYCAR Series, he responded, “I’m sure I will know more as I enter the season, but I know I will be against some drivers that have years and years of experience in the car and with the tracks. I know my lack of experience will hurt in some aspects, but hopefully my driving will be able to make up for most of it.”

Spoken with the confidence of a champion.Post not marked as liked

USF Juniors Series Releases Schedule

USF Juniors, the newest series on the Road to Indy unveiled a 16 race schedule today. The races will take place at six venues. Four sites will feature three races. The series will not race on any ovals.

The races at Barber Motorsports Park are the only one sat a track on the same weekend that Indycar is there.

USF Juniors is the first step on the Road to Indy. It is designed to give young drivers more opportunities to learn at a much lower cost than USF2000.

Detroit’s New Track Plan- Hit or Miss?

Photo: Keke Rosberg at the 1983 Detroit Grand Prix

The Detroit Grand Prix’s announcement last week that the 2023 event will be on the streets of downtown instead of Belle Isle caused quite a stir among the Indycar fan base. I don’t have a problem with moving the race venue. I have grown to appreciate Belle Isle. The racing has improved greatly the last few years. I do have a problem with the proposed track. It looks like a modified oval suited for Formula E.

The 1.7 mile track has 10 turns with a 7/10 mile straightaway longer than either straight at Bell Isle. The track at Belle Isle is 2.35 miles long with 14 turns. I would like to see one more curve section. The double sided pits look interesting and could be a factor during the race, but I was hoping for a mor exotic layout.

Racing on the streets of Detroit is not a new concept. Formula 1 raced downtown from 1982-1988. CART had events in the city from 19889-1992, then the race moved to Belle Isle starting in 1993and ending after the 2001 event. Indycar returned to Belle Isle in 2007 and 2008. The race in its current format came back in 2012.

The former downtown circuit was a much more proper track. Perhaps the track below can’t be reproduced because of construction or street alterations, but I hope they can find a way to make the proposed track more interesting. I like the first turn hairpin and chicane just before the finish line.

Promoters have also said that about 50% of the track will have free viewing access. That is great, but how ill the event be profitable? I guess they are counting on huge suite and hospitality revenues.

When I go to the Detroit Grand Prix next year, I will spend some time checking out the proposed layout and hopefully get to drive the proposed track. . It might be better than I think. I assume there will be some more detailed layouts available by then. It is risky to make such a radical change to what has been a successful race, but Roger Penske usually knows what he is doing.

DeFrancesco: Indycar Suits My Style More

Devlin DeFrancesco knows what he likes, and he likes drivcing Indycar. The NTT Indycar Series newest rookie met the media this morning. he is excited to move up from Indy Lights. DeFrancesco thinks Indycar’s more aggressive style suits him better than racing in Indy Lights did.

“Honestly, personally, I found
the car suited me much more. I got to grips with it quite
quickly” DeFrancesco said. “Definitely from midday onwards in Sebring I was
already coming to grips with it and then Barber it didn’t take
me that long to get up to speed. I really enjoy the car. I
can’t wait to be in the thing again, and I’m really excited to
get going for next year.”

The Canadian driver has big plans for his first year in the series. He shared those goals.

“There’s much more aero, as well, so able to carry a lot
more momentum speed and be a lot more aggressive in
the medium high-speed stuff, as well, which suits me quite
more. I’m excited to get going racing, try reds out for the
first time, seeing what those do in qualifying. There’s a lot
of stuff that I’m looking forward to doing, and I think there’s
definitely going to be some good results in the pipeline for
2022.

For sure there are going to be
some races where I think we’re going to be very
competitive and at the front, and I’d like to go home with
Rookie of the Year and I’d like to be fighting more towards
the front, especially by the end of the year. That’s
definitely my plan.”

As for which tracks DeFrancesco believes he will be strongest, he named the higher speed road courses and the ovals.

“I’ve always seemed to be very strong at the higher speed
tracks with high-speed corners. Ovals, as well, is
something I’ve taken to quite quickly and seem to quite
enjoy. Definitely the higher speed stuff I’m looking forward
to getting at, especially the ovals, Barber, fast tracks like
that, St. Pete, as well. I was quite quick there in Lights, so
looking forward to getting back there for INDYCAR.”

Like all rookies, we will see if his race craft meshes smoothly with his speed.

Michael Andretti Talks F1, Indy Lights

Michael Andrerti put to rest rumors about his attempted purchase of the Formula 1 Alfa Romeo team. it was not financial.

Andretti said, ” I’d just like to
put an end to some of these rumors that the deal fell
through because of financial reasons. That couldn’t be
further from the truth. That had nothing to do with that. It
basically came down to control issues in the final hours of
the negotiations. That’s what killed the deal.
I’ve always said if the deal is not right, we’re not going to
do it, and in the end it wasn’t right. So we continue to look
for other opportunities.”

Andretti explained that he would not be in control of the team had the purchase gone through, so he withdrew.

Andretti also said that Colton Herta would have been placed in the Formula 1 program and Kyle Kirkwood would have taken over the 26 car.

Will Kirkwood return to Andretti? It won’t be in 2022, but Andretti said,

“Yeah, so from that standpoint, that’s why unfortunately at
the moment we don’t have a spot for Kyle, but that’s not to
say we won’t in the future. We’re definitely going to watch
him, and I’m hoping he gets a full-time ride to get
experience, and we’ll see how that goes.
The goal is to get him back in our family one day again.”

Andretti emphasized that DeFrancesco did not take a seat from Kirkwood. There was a three year plan to put DeFrancesco in an Indycar seat.

Indy Lights was another hot topic during the press conference. Andretti strongly believes in the program and he is happy that Roger penske brought the junior series back into the Indycar paddock.

“I believe it’s the foundation for our series. You look at the talent that
comes out of it every year. 90 percent of our drivers have
come through that. That’s where our future stars are.
That’s where the future is of our sport. For me, it was very
important that we keep it alive in any way we could.”

Andretti also shared his thoughts on the absence of the Freedom 100.

“I guess we can be a little bit
different on our views on that. I think he’s looking at the big
picture, I guess, and that is protecting the 500, and he’s
just always worried that if there’s a bad accident or
whatever on Friday it could affect Sunday’s race.
You can’t argue with that, but having said that, I think it was
a great race for experience for these drivers, and it always
put on a great show. My gosh, everybody was excited for
that race to see what was going to happen, and it always
came down to inches at the end of the race.
It is a little disappointing for sure not having the race there,
but it is what it is.”

Steinbrenner Staying Put

George Steinbrenner IV has no plans to strike out and form an independent team. He has been a part of Andretti for six years and sees no reason to leave at this time. Steinbrenner said,

“You know, that — if the
team(time) ever comes where it sort of makes sense from an
operational/financial standpoint, then sure, absolutely it
would be awesome. But again, so far there hasn’t really
been the opportunity or really the reason to sort of leave
what the program is that we’ve had going on.
Sure, yeah, it’s definitely something we’ve thought about,
talked about, looked into, but don’t really have a timeline or
timetable for when or if it would be a reality.”

I really can’t think of a good reason for him to leave, either.

on Freedom 100

:

DeFrancesco Confirmed at Andretti

Image from Andretti Autosport

It’s not a surprise, but now it is official. Devlin DeFrancesco will drive the number 29 car for Andretti Autosport. The 29 29 is the Steinbrenner/Andretti entry. The statement from Andretti Autosport:

11.04.21

Graduating from the Road to Indy ladder, Devlin DeFrancesco has been confirmed to pilot Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport’s No. 29 Honda for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The Italian-Canadian driver made his first outings behind the wheel of an Indy car at two recent test days with Andretti Autosport and will make his first official race start on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida in February.   

“We’re thrilled to keep Devlin in the Andretti Autosport family as he makes his final jump up the Road to Indy ladder into INDYCAR,” said Michael Andretti, CEO and Chairman, Andretti Autosport. “Devlin has been a great addition to our Indy Lights program and has showed a lot of growth and strength at the recent test days. I think he’ll continue to grow with INDYCAR and I’m really glad that we could again partner with George and the Steinbrenner Racing team for the No. 29.” 

“Two years ago, we started a journey with Devlin with the intent to one day take him all the way to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and I’m thrilled that day has come,” said George Steinbrenner IV, CEO, Steinbrenner Racing. “From Indy Pro 2000 to Indy Lights and now to INDYCAR, he really impressed with his two initial days in an Indy car and we’re excited to see him in action in 2022.”

After making his Road to Indy debut in 2020 with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport in Indy Pro 2000, DeFrancesco has quickly ascended the Road to Indy ladder moving into Indy Lights in 2021 and ultimately into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2022. DeFrancesco earned the Rookie of the Year title and finished second in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship in 2020 and scored two podiums, nine top-five finishes, and 18 top-10 finishes in his Indy Lights debut season in 2021.  

“I am incredibly grateful to Michael (Andretti) and George (Steinbrenner IV) for the belief they have shown in me over the past two seasons moving up the Road to Indy ladder,” DeFrancesco said. “To now take that final step into INDYCAR with two of the world’s biggest names in sports – Andretti and Steinbrenner – is an incredible opportunity that I can’t wait to take full advantage of. I have three very experienced teammates to learn from and that is what makes this opportunity even more exciting. To get to race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport and to contest the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true and I’m so looking forward to getting started.” 

DeFrancesco rounds out the Andretti Autosport 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES lineup joining already announced drivers Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda), Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) and Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda).  

The 21-year-old’s debut INDYCAR season will again be supported by his 2021 Indy Lights sponsors including hydrogen production and dispensing fueling infrastructure innovators, PowerTap Hydrogen; Kimoa – the fashion, clothing, and accessories brand founded by Fernando Alonso; world-class racing simulator manufacturer AIS; Apple’s largest premium retail partner, Simply Mac; Seattle, WA-based Jones Soda Co; software and services company Fyllo; Seattle-WA and Miami, FL-based Sol Yoga.

Detroit GP Returns to Downtown in 2023

If you have always wanted to go to a race n Belle Isle, next year is your last chance. The Detroit Grand Prix issued a statement announcing that the Detroit Grand Prix will take place downtown on the streets of Detroit in 2023.

The statement:

I never had the chance to attend a race in downtown Detroit. I am interested to see the layout and how the event plays out. If the organizers are hoping for the same type of buzz that nashville got last summer, I think they may be disappointed.

First, Nashville was a brand new event. Second, Detroit has had a race of some kind for several years. The race isn’t a novelty. I’m not sure a new location is enough to get a significantly bigger crowd. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Indycar’s 2022 Grid Still Has Lots of Questions

Photo: Kirkwood tests the car he thought he would be driving in 2022. Joes Skibinski, Indycar

There will be at least 25 cars on the grid when the NTT Indycar Series begins February 25-27 at St. Pete. There could be even more. What we still don’t know is who will be in those cars?

Some drivers are set, others are believed to be in place but not formally announced, and others are still looking for a ride. The biggest name seeking employment right now is Kyle Kirkwood. The 2021 Indy Lights champion became a free agent Monday when his contract with Andretti expired.

Andretti’s failed attempt to buy Sauber F1 probably cost Kirkwood a full time ride in the 26.

Kirkwood’s choices are limited. Filled and presumed seats make up most of the grid. Possible openings are at Foyt, Ed Carpenter Racing, Carlin, and Juncos /Hollinger.

Kirkwood has suddenly become the key to the silly season.

Foyt- More Questions than Answers

Until A. J. Foyt Racing resigns sponsor ROKIT, don’t expect a lot of movement. Dalton Kellett is likely to return in car 4, but car 14 is in limbo. Sebastien Bourdais may run a few races in the car, but who else? If ROKIT returns, Tatiana Calderon is good possibility. Kirkwood would not be likely to be in the 14. Could Foyt add a third car if a partner comes on board?

Second Car for Juncos/Hollinger? Carlin Merger?

It’s great to see Juncos racing back. They are set with Callum Ilott in the 77. Ricardo Juncos wants a second car. It’s possible that the team might partner with Carlin. I think Carlin is on shaky ground and also needs a second car.

A partnership could help both teams and keep the Carlin name in Indycar. I expected good things from Carlin. I liked the way they ran an Indy Lights program before they moved up to Indycar Things just haven’t worked out for them in this series.

Carlin has yet to confirm a driver. It is not known whether Max Chilton will be back. If he returns, another driver needs to run Texas, Gateway, and Iowa. Conor Daly has filled that role in the past and might do so again.

Carpenter Has Many Choices

Ed Carpenter Racing needs a driver for the road and street races in the 20, which he plans to drive on the ovals. The deal usually includes a third car for the Indianapolis 500.

It has been Conr Day’s seat for the past two years, and may well be again. ECR is waiting to see if the US Air Force returns as sponsor. If they do, Daly will probably get the ride. If not, Ryan Hunter-Reay or Oliver Askew have a chance at the seat.

Kirkwood wants a full time deal, so I don’t think ECR is where he s looking.

I think it is important for the series to have Kirkwood in a full time ride. He is the next link in the generational shift that we witnessed in 2021.

Lights Drivers Mum on Indycar Futures

Indycar photo: Kyle Kirkwood on track by Chris Owens

The top three 2021 finishers in Indy Lights, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, and Linus Lundqvist, talked about their very cold test day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. The trio had the opportunity to test an Indycar on the IMS road course. It was the first time in an Indycar for Lundqvist. Kirkwood and Malukas tested at Barber. Kirkwood also had a test at Sebring.

Kirkwood and Lundqvist drove cars prepared by Andretti Autosport; Lundqvist drove the number 2 car of Team Penske.

Much of the post test discussion centered on the Indycar prospects for the drivers.

All driver photos by Joe Skibinski

Kirkwood, the first driver to win the championship on all three levels of the Road to Indy, still has no ride for 2022, but he hinted that things are moving in a positive way.

“We have an idea, yeah. I think we
have a direction. It’s not all said and done yet. As of today, which today is November
1st, I’ve been given permission to look elsewhere. I
haven’t been able to have conversations. I don’t know
exactly what I can and cannot say, so I’m going to keep my
mouth shut on the direction “.

 

malukjs

Malukas is strongly thought  to have a ride with Dale Coyne Racing for 2022. In response to a question about how far along his deal is, he would only say, “We will do 99.9%”

lundjs

As for Lundqvist, it appears he has very little going on  at the moment. He replied to questions about his Indycar future,

“Unclear I would say. You never
really know what’s going to happen. I would love to stay
here in the U.S. to start off with. Obviously I would love to
be in INDYCAR next year. If that doesn’t happen, then I’m
looking to do Lights another year.
You never really know because budget-wise it’s a very big
question. We’ll see what we can do during the winter, after
this test as well, what pops up. I’ll keep digging no matter
what.”

Tire Heat Biggest Surprise

All three drivers seemed most impressed by how quickly the tires got warm. It caught a couple of them by surprise.

Lundqvist commented, “Actually the Firestone tire, the grip that they have just
straight out of pit lane was a lot better than what I
experienced in Indy Lights. Obviously it takes a little bit of
time for the pressure to come up, but it wasn’t as bad as I
expected it. You just had to be a little bit careful. It was
not too bad. Obviously I think it would have been even
better when it was warmer. Within a lap or two the tires
were in.”

Malukas agreed with Lundqvist, “Comparing to Indy Lights, it’s like
night-and-day difference. With Indy Lights in this weather,
it would have taken quite some time.”

Kirkwood noted, “One thing I did notice that was pretty big, especially
compared to the Lights car, is the tires switch on so quickly
even in the very cool conditions, which I was not expecting
on the first few laps.”

Lundqvist concluded with a comment about how well Indy Lights prepares drivers for Indycar.

“What you learn in Indy Lights, you
can definitely bring on here. The cars are very similar in
some sense but quite different in others.
I think what I learned in Indy Lights is that you’re able to
drive a car just on the limit. That really rewards you in
INDYCAR as well. It’s that you have so much more grip to
play with. It’s not as much on a knife edge, I would say, as
the Lights car is. You got so much more to play with here.
I think you’re extracting a lot of lap times if you’re having a
similar driver style in the Indy Lights car if you bring it to
INDYCAR.”