By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Kyle Kirkwood’s weekend at Road America can be described as chaotic after finishing ninth in Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix.
Due to an engine failure during second round of qualifying, Kirkwood wasn’t able to partake in the Firestone Fast Six. Thus, the Long Beach winner had to settle rolling off sixth instead of being a threat for the pole position.
When the green flag dropped for the 55-lap race, Kirkwood’s race, like the majority of his season, went out of control.
Heading into the second turn, Kirkwood was charging towards the front and already gained two spots. All work was lost when he ran into the back of Pato O’Ward. Kirkwood would then loop his No. 27 AutoNation Honda around, bringing out the first caution of the afternoon.
Fortunately, Kirkwood’s car didn’t ended up trapped in the gravel trap and was able to continue his race on the lead lap. But he had his work cut out for as he had to restart the race shotgun on the field in 27th.
“I had an amazing jump from P6 and I was nearly passing for P3,” Kirkwood said. “I don’t know if I had loads more grip than everyone else. I didn’t feel like I was too deep and I ran into the back of Pato. I felt bad for him and I spun myself out.”
From there, strategy and cautions favored the Andretti Autosport driver as he showcased what he’s capable of doing when overcoming adversity. Kirkwood had to do it multiple times and it paid off with a top-10 result.
“I cycled to the back, but I was able to pass cars on track. It showed how great our No. 27 AutoNation Honda was,” said Kirkwood. “We had good strategy, good pit stops and it got us back into the top-10. I was able to get one more position at the end. We’re happy for that, but kind of a dumb mistake at the beginning from me.”
Pace in Elkhart Lake certainly attributed to Kirkwood’s courageous race on the repaved road course.
“We had pace to do whatever we wanted to on both tires,” said Kirkwood. “It just opens up the strategy whenever you have pace like that.”
After eight rounds, Kirkwood sits 10th in INDYCAR points, trailing race winner and championship leader Alex Palou by 160 points heading into Mid-Ohio in two weeks.