By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The most decorated Road to Indy scholar has found a home in the NTT IndyCar Series. After weeks of uncertainty, Kyle Kirkwood was announced Wednesday as AJ Foyt Racing’s newest driver.
The Floridian will replace Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 14 Chevrolet on a full-time basis next season. Bourdais will be make the move to IMSA once again as he’ll join Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillac DPi program.
Kirkwood said he’s over the moon of driving for Foyt, knowing he’ll have big shoes to fill by taking Bourdais’ seat.
“I’m at a loss for words because I’m ecstatic,” said Kirkwood. “It’s been my entire career building up to this moment, all the way from karting. I started when I was four years old, and I’ve always had dreams of making it to INDYCAR, racing the Indy 500 and competing for a championship, and to do it with a legendary team like AJ Foyt Racing is absolutely incredible.”
Kirkwood, who won this season’s Indy Lights championship, had struggled landing a seat at Andretti Autosport. The very team Kirkwood won the title with Michael Andretti being vocal of wanting to keep the 23-year-old.
However, Devlin DeFrancesco got the nod in the No. 29 Honda and Colton Herta not making the sudden move to Formula One due to the rumored deal with Alfa Romeo collapsing, Kirkwood had to venture elsewhere.
“Michael had the option on me until November 1st. They were trying to push the deal together for a while now. They were working on it for a really long time,” said Kirkwood.
“Unfortunately they got to pretty much 1-yard line with it and it didn’t work out. Ultimately Michael made it aware to everyone that I would have ended up in the 26 car (Herta’s ride) for the season, but no, this works out perfectly for me. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of everything.”
It didn’t took long for Kirkwood to find a new home as Foyt Team President Larry Foyt said the deal came together rather quickly.
“I was surprised that Kyle didn’t have a full-time deal. It was just one of those things everyone kind of assumed he was locked up where he was,” said Foyt. “When I found out that he was available, it was kind of a no-brainer for us.
“The kid deserves to be in a full-time INDYCAR ride, and obviously with Seb doing his sports car things there were some conflicts there, and I think we really wanted a full-time driver in the 14 car. It just really worked out perfectly for us.”
Even before joining Foyt, there wasn’t any sense of a worried mindset from Kirkwood. He kept himself optimistic that an INDYCAR team would pick him up for a 2022 season.
“We actually had a handful of INDYCAR teams interested, even some stuff over in Europe, so I definitely would have ended up something full-time,” Kirkwood admitted. “The way everything came to fruition, I think it was the absolute perfect, perfect moment with a fantastic team where I could go in and also learn in kind of a low-pressure environment but also build up. There’s a lot of aspirations throughout the team and with new people coming in where I think we can create something pretty massive.”
Foyt confirmed he’s set with the organization entering two cars with the other being Dalton Kellett’s No. 4 Chevrolet. Kirkwood’s deal with Foyt is currently a one-year deal as he’ll make his anticipated series debut at St. Petersburg February 27, 2022.