LEXINGTON, Ohio – A fourth consecutive victory for Kyle Kirkwood and Andretti Autosport has taken him to the brink of clinching this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown.
The title also would secure a scholarship valued at $1.3 million to ensure entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series races in 2022, including the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Kirkwood, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., further solidified his claim Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by leading throughout the 30-lap first leg of this weekend’s VP Racing Fuels Championship Weekend Presented by Cooper Tires. His 10th victory of the season matches the record set by the late Greg Moore in 1995.
Kirkwood’s closest rival, David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., once again couldn’t match the rampant Floridian’s speed as he finished a distant second, 6.4367 seconds adrift at the checkered flag for HMD Motorsports. However, that result was enough to virtually clinch the coveted Team Championship for the Brownsburg, Ind.-based squad, which needs only to start tomorrow’s season finale to secure its first-ever Road to Indy title.
Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., finished third for Andretti Autosport.
Unbeaten in seven previous Road to Indy starts at the challenging 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio course, Kirkwood maintained his imperious form by posting the fastest time in practice yesterday and then secured his seventh Cooper Tires Pole Award in qualifying this morning.
Malukas struggled in practice, only fifth on the timing charts, but he bounced back in qualifying to briefly hold the top spot before being bumped down to second place by Kirkwood.
A clean start saw Malukas challenge for the lead on the entry to Turn One, but Kirkwood took full advantage of his inside position to maintain his edge. The two remained close together for the opening five laps before Kirkwood was able to stretch his legs and begin to pull away.
By the midpoint of the race, Kirkwood held almost a three-second margin which he continued to extend before easing off on the final lap once his victory was assured.
Kirkwood now holds a commanding 22-point lead over Malukas, which means that one more Cooper Tires Pole Award in the final qualifying session Sunday morning and being able to take the start of the race would be enough for him to become the first driver to win titles in Indy Lights, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tire and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
A forceful start by Megennis took him ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Danial Frost, from Singapore, into third position, which he maintained to the end. Frost actually lost a couple of positions in the early skirmishes before fighting his way back past Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Hollinger Racing), from Payette, Idaho. Frost put the pressure on Megennis for most of the distance before slipping back a couple of seconds in the closing stages.