Kyle Kirkwood: Some Momentum at Last

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Kyle Kirkwood

Published on July 16, 2019 with No Comments

JUPITER, Fla. – Hi everyone, it has been quite some time since I’ve written a blog, so I have much to fill everyone in on. As I am sure many of you know, I am competing in the Road To Indy Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with RP Motorsports. This season I have witnessed and experienced the vast extent of ups and downs in motorsports. But, as always, no matter the result there’s always a character building or positive learning curve with every win or loss. Last year had to be one of easiest seasons of my career with the extremely high win percentage with Cape Motorsports and Abel Motorsports. This was positive at the time and had an amazing outlook but I believe I learned less than I should have, which is where some of the negatives have come from at the beginning of this season.

I’d like to start by talking about prior to the start of the season and what transpired for me to end up in the car I am in now. I’m sure it was very obvious to everyone that I would compete in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship because of the $325,000 Scholarship provided by Mazda, but it took a long time for all the pieces to fall into place. I had options to go with multiple teams but I chose RP Motorsports based on their passion and experience in many open-wheel categories. They showed good pace in 2018 with almost no testing or previous knowledge prior to making their debut in America. I was actually committed to them before our first test, and my faith in them has been well founded.

We had good speed in St. Petersburg.

We started off the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., with a bang, and not a good bang – the type of bang that caused a DNF in the very first race… It was heartbreaking and it was completely my mistake. I really let the team down and the fact that it was the first lap of the season just made things worse. With that being said we rebounded the next day to a second-place finish. It wasn’t a great start to the year but at least we had some momentum heading into the Indy GP.

More ups and downs at Indianapolis.

I was excited to go to Indianapolis after seeing the pace showed by RP Motorsports at the Chris Griffis Memorial test late in 2018. And again, I was right. The car was incredibly quick, and even though our single-lap pace wasn’t enough to put us on pole for qualifying, we knew we had the race pace to win. Unfortunately, I was penalized for a jump-start at the beginning of Race One and was forced to take the restart from the back of the field. I was so mad but I just put my head down and set a new lap record as I fought back to second place by the finish. That was the good news. But we were knocked down again the following day when we incurred some damage on the first lap so I had to come into the pits for repairs. Ultimately, what we thought would be our strongest weekend didn’t go much better than St. Pete.

I knew Lucas Oil Raceway Park would be our weakest track of the year, due to the team having so little time on ovals, which they never compete on in Europe. We actually had a stout qualifying and were able to put the #28 car on the front row but our lack of experience came back to haunt us in the race and it cost us a podium on the last lap.

Finally, everything came together at Road America.

Sitting with a large deficit in points we needed to make a comeback and we did just that in Road America with two wins. We struggled for pace in qualifying, but just like the Indy GP our car was on rails for both races and we were able to check out in both races to a comfortable lead. At this point I knew the tables had turned and we had lots of momentum behind us.

Swimming with the…rays in the Bahamas on July Fourth.

The Fourth of July holiday was between Road America and Toronto. For many of us that grew up in South Florida, that means you celebrate in the Bahamas. Everyone jumps on boats and even ferries to make the quick 60-200 mile trip to whichever island you choose. For us it’s the Abacos on the northeast part of the Bahamas. There are thousands of boats there at that time of year and most of them you know if you’ve grown up on the water like I have. The week usually consists of diving and fishing in crystal clear waters, cookouts, and boat raft-ups at deserted beaches that you can only access by boat. I actually ran into the USF2000 race winner Darren Keane and Ozwaldo Negri while I was over there! This was a nice mental reset between races.

Back to our winning ways in Toronto.

Now just this past weekend we competed in the streets of Toronto, which happens to be my favorite race of the year. I’m not sure what it is about the track, but I love it. It’s a true “drivers track” and the conditions are ever changing. We came into the weekend strong, and I mean really strong with being quickest in practice and grabbing both poles. There were some doubts coming into the weekend due to RP Motorsports results from last year. Remember the viral video of Harrison Scott flying through the air into Turn Three? Yeah… I’m in the same exact chassis. So I’m sure Toronto isn’t as much a favorite of my team as it is mine.

The start of Race One went completely different than I was expecting. I seemed to just be dodging cars for the first couple laps and while running in third I was driven into the wall and forced to pit. My first reaction was “Are you serious, this can’t be happening again.” I had to pit for a new nose and wing – for the third time this season – and ended up a lap down. Both the front right and front left suspension were damaged so we were just nursing the car around the track hoping for cars to fall out, and luckily they did so we salvaged an eighth-place finish.

The RP Motorsport guys have been great to work with.

In Race Two I knew exactly what to do differently to minimize the risky positions I was placed in and it worked perfectly. I got the holeshot and created a gap early on in the race. Even so, this wasn’t an easy race. I had Parker Thompson and Rasmus Lindh behind me the whole time and I knew if I made one mistake they would be there to capitalize. But I kept the car online without mistakes the entire 30-lap race and was able to come through with the win. This was a huge sigh of relief after our disappointing first race and I know we still have great momentum.

Our next race will be in Mid-Ohio – the track where I have the most experience – two weekends from now. I appreciate you all for reading and I will keep you updated as we are now on a roll!


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