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
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.