Kyle Kirkwood made a name for himself in the Indy Lights division and will look to do the same in the NTT IndyCar Series. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Kyle Kirkwood made a name for himself in the Indy Lights division and will look to do the same in the NTT IndyCar Series. (Al Steinberg Photo)

Kyle Kirkwood: An American Winner

He continued to run in Formula 4 United States in 2017, but switched to Cape Motorsports and won the championship with nine victories in 20 races.

“Cape Motorsports has an amazing pedigree and kept me on my toes and put a ton of pressure on me,” Kirkwood said. “After we won the F-4 championship, they said I needed to win the F2000 championship if I wanted to get to IndyCar. 

“We put together half of the budget for the 2018 season and the only reason that I was able to keep going was I won so many races that we were able to put the prize money into the operating budget,” he continued. “It was about $35,000 worth of prize money. When you’re winning races, no one is going to make you stop if they can help it.”

Kirkwood won 12 of the 14 races in his rookie USF2000 season with Cape Motorsports, as well as the championship. 

“Kyle won two championships for us, F-4 and USF2000, on consecutive years,” said team owner Dominic Cape. “He has a great support system with his family, he has a wealth of knowledge to draw from due to his years in karting and his time in single seaters, and he has the innate trait of being able to overcome setbacks. He’s single-minded, driven and tenacious. He knows what he wants and needs to get the job done. He has a bit of a ruthless streak as well. We all like to call him the ‘Pres’ because he looks like he’s a politician. We had two fantastic years with Kyle and enjoyed every minute.”

“My driver coach when I was with Cape Motorsports was Jonatan Jorge, who is amazing,” Kirkwood said. 

What were the key lessons learned in USF2000?

Kyle Kirkwood in victory lane at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Kyle Kirkwood in victory lane at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“How to develop a car and what I liked in a race car,” Kirkwood said. “I learned a lot about myself that year. A lot of it was just maturity. I also learned what tools I needed to make a car better, and how to convey that to an engineer.”

And what does he like in a race car?

“It’s always been a pretty neutral setup,” he said. “I always like cars to be really secure on entry (into a turn). Sometimes people watch me and they think I’m underdriving the car, but it’s because I’m keeping them so stable. When they see that I’m fast, that changes their perception.”

Kirkwood also earned the F3 America championship with Abel Motorsports in 2018, winning 15 of the 17 races. 

He advanced to the Indy Pro 2000 series with RP Motorsports in 2019 and won yet another championship even though the deal was late to come together. He won nine of 16 races in his rookie season and claimed the title, which earned him another Road to Indy scholarship to use for Indy Lights. 

“The biggest thing I learned that season (Indy Pro) was how to make a team come together,” Kirkwood said.

After seeing Askew win the Indy Lights championship with Andretti Autosport in 2019, Kirkwood knew he wanted to take his Indy Pro scholarship money to that team for Indy Lights in 2020. However, the season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series returned in 2021 and Kirkwood won 10 of 20 races and claimed the series title with Andretti Autosport. That tied a series record set by the late Greg Moore in 1995. 

“A lot of what I learned in 2021 were the technical things because a lot of things in IndyCar are applicable to Indy Lights,” he said. “Lights are much different than the series below it.”

The Indy Lights champion’s scholarship, valued at more than $1.3 million, ensures entry into at least three IndyCar races, including the Indy 500. 

Andretti Autosport did its best to find a spot for Kirkwood in its IndyCar stable for this season but was unsuccessful. In the end, Kirkwood signed a one-year deal with A.J. Foyt Racing. 

Prior to signing with Foyt, Kirkwood tested an Indy car “three or four times” with Andretti Autosport. “The first time was on a runway at the Kennedy Space Center,” he disclosed. “It was cool to go 230 down a runway.”

All told, Kirkwood won 31 races in the three Road to Indy series. A.J. Foyt Racing is in a rebuilding stage and has high hopes that Kirkwood will be able to give the team its first IndyCar Series victory since 2013.

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