Kyle Kirkwood broke the record last weekend for the most wins on the Road to Indy. Here’s a run through all 25 of his junior single-seater wins on the IndyCar support bill since debuting in 2018
The Road to Indy has a huge success rate in taking young drivers all the way to IndyCar, aided by its scholarship system for series champions, and has also established its own stars at the lower levels.
One of those is Andretti Autosport driver Kyle Kirkwood, who is currently contesting his rookie Indy Lights season and has previously driven for the team in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
Kirkwood, now 22, started his single-seater career in F1600 Championship Series in 2015 and soon became a race winner. He moved into United States Formula 4 for 2016, finishing third in the points in his rookie season, as well as returning to wingless cars for the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy, in which he finished fourth.
A second year in US F4 resulted in nine wins out of 20 races, and began the dominant winning form that Kirkwood has taken through the rest of his career. In 2018 he stepped up to Formula Regional Americas and was beaten only twice in 17 races, and that same year he joined the Road to Indy with Cape Motorsports in USF200. In a 14-race season he took 12 wins.
That earned him the scholarship to step up to Indy Pro 2000, with Italian team RP Motorsport, and while he only made the podium twice in the first five races he was still able to win the title off the back of nine wins in the next 11 races. However retiring from the season finale at Laguna Seca meant he was champion by just two points.
He then signed with Andretti to step up to Indy Lights for 2020, but the season’s cancellation meant he had to wait until this year for his debut. The results so far are four wins in 10 races, in addition to two poles, and he’s second in the points.
Here is the list of all 25 of Kirkwood’s Road to Indy wins:
1. St. Petersburg 1
His very first Road to Indy race, and his first win. The then-19-year-old qualified second behind Jose Sierra, but overtook the DEForce Racing driver at the opening corner of the race before yellow flags were waved. He handled his first restart from the lead finely, and then pulled away to win by 5.4945 seconds.
2. Indianapolis GP 2
3. Freedom 75
Kirkwood’s first car race on an oval was a case of incredibly controlled driving, although in qualifying he only narrowly beat Pabst Racing rival Rasmus Lindh to pole. However in the caution-free first half of the race Kirkwood stretched out a lead of over four seconds, and then handled several restarts in the race’s second half to lead lights-to-flag and with fastest lap too.
4 & 5. Road America 1 & 2
6 & 7. Toronto 1 & 2
8. Mid-Ohio 1
With four races of the season to spare, Kirkwood wrapped up the title in the first race of the Mid-Ohio triple-header. He started from pole, and after two potential victory contenders wiped themselves out early on he was unchallenged to win.
9 & 10. Mid-Ohio 2 & 3
11. Portland 1
12. Portland 2
The last of Kirkwood’s 14 races in USF2000 led to him becoming the series’ most successful driver (on second-place countback), a record he has since relinquished (also on second-place countback) to rising star Christian Rasmussen.
It was the first time Portland had been on the calendar since 2006, the year J. R. Hildebrand had set the series’ wins record at 12 victories. Kirkwood matched that in the 2018 season finale.
Lindh looked set to win this one, before being hit by his own team-mate and enabling Kirkwood to get past for victory. That season he also took one second place finish, while fellow 12-time winner Rasmussen took four across 2019 and 2020.
Indy Pro 2000
13 & 14. Road America 1 & 2
15. Toronto 2
16. Mid-Ohio 1
17. Mid-Ohio 2
Kirkwood’s first perfect weekend (of a round featuring more than one race) came at Mid-Ohio in 2019 as he won from pole, without ever conceding the lead, and took fastest lap in both races. It reinforced his status as a circuit specialist, following triple wins there in USF2000 and FRegional Americas, as well as two wins from F4.
18. Oval Challenge at St. Louis
With only one oval on the USF2000 calendar, it wasn’t until IP2000 that Kirkwood visited another. And in his first weekend at the Gateway oval he won in style.
He failed to set a time in qualifying, meaning he started from 12st, but took the lead just seven laps into the 55-lap race, and held position until a caution period with 15 laps to go. When racing resumed with eight laps to go, he was able to stay out in front to take his fourth win in a row.
19 & 20. Portland 1 & 2
21. Laguna Seca 1
Kirkwood became champion a race later, but he almost won it in race one at Laguna Seca as victory meant his points lead was enough that he only needed to start the finale to be crowned.
Juncos Racing’s Sting Ray Robb took pole and controlled the race’s first half to lead by over three seconds. Robb’s pace became more patchy in the second half, allowing Kirkwood to close in by a few tenths each lap. With three laps to go he passed Robb for the lead, immediately building a gap of over two seconds and pushing on to win. Kirkwood was eliminated moments into the title decider, but by then the title was secured even as Lindh went on to take a maximum score.
22. St. Petersburg 1
Kirkwood claimed his pole for his third race in the series, and nailed the rolling start to be out of threat of attack going into the first corner. He was able to extend a lead over Devlin DeFrancesco in the race’s first half, although a late caution undid his hard work, but he pulled away again for his much anticipated first Indy Lights win.
23. Detroit 1
24. Detroit 2
A nine-year break was ended for Detroit as it rejoined the Indy Lights calendar, and Kirkwood was usually the driver to beat thanks to learning from Andretti’s IndyCar data. He headed Linus Lundqvist, also a FRegional Americas champion, in race one from pole position and then had red flags prevent him from taking another pole for race two.
Regardless, he had fought his way into the lead by lap two of the race and used a tyre life advantage to control the pace thereon despite two caution periods and another Lundqvist attack. It brought him level with Spencer Pigot’s Road to Indy wins record, and also meant he joined Steve Robertson and Tony Kanaan as two-time winners of the Detroit support race.
25. Road America 1
Tyre saving in qualifying contributed to ending the session fourth, but early drama in the race moved Kirkwood up a spot and then he had the pace on the high-load circuit as the race went on to move past Lundqvist for the lead. His tyre life advantage became more evident as his lead grew and grew, eventually finishing 11.0667s clear of second place to take the outright Road to Indy wins record and the Lights points lead, which he then gave up after finishing a lapped 12th on Sunday.
Road to Indy (national championship) winners list
|1||Greg Moore||13||1||Matthew Brabham||13||1||Christian Rasmussen||12|
|2||Tommy Byrne||10||2||Michael McDowell||9||2||K Kirkwood||12|
|3||Alex Lloyd||10||3||Peter Dempsey||9||3||J. R. Hildebrand||12|
|4||Paul Tracy||9||4||Kyle Kirkwood||9||4||S Pigot||11|
|5||Patricio O’Ward||9||5||Conor Daly||8||5||Jay Howard||10|
|6||Bryan Herta||8||6||Jack Hawksworth||8||6||Nico Jamin||10|
|7||Townsend Bell||8||7||Sting Ray Robb||7||7||Sage Karam||9|
|8||Wade Cunningham||8||8||Victor Franzoni||7||8||David Besnard||8|
|9||Santiago Urrutia||8||9||Connor De Philippi||7||9||Bryan Sellers||8|
|10||Jeff Simmons||7||10||Spencer Pigot||7||10||Parker Thompson||7|