Kirkwood doubles up at Detroit in Indy Lights
The battle for this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title hunt intensified after an impressive one-two for Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti Autosport at the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Detroit Presented by Cooper Tires this weekend.
The Swedish polesitter Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports) had to be content with second place after the defeat against Kirkwood at the start, although second place was still enough for him to have a narrow one-point lead over his teammate from HMD Motorsports to acquire David Malukas.
Malukas continued his strong comeback after an accident early in practice on Friday to finish third, while Kirkwood’s third win of the season brought him within four points of Lundqvist.
Kirkwood’s most recent win – his 24th on the Cooper Tires presented open wheel development ladder on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, alongside title wins in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship (2018) and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (2019) – He achieved the most wins overall with Spencer Pigot, who also won 24 times on the way to the titles in Indy Pro 2000 (2014) and Indy Lights (2015).
Qualifying for round eight of the 20-race season yesterday morning ended prematurely after a single vehicle incident with Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), who secured Lundqvist his third Cooper Tires Pole Award. Malukas, also a three-time pole winner, finished second ahead of Kirkwood, who had set a fast lap at the red flag.
Unperturbed by an aggressive start, Kirkwood stormed into second place in Malukas as he entered Turn 1. Halfway through the second lap of the extremely bumpy and challenging 2.35 mile long The Raceway on the Belle Isle Park course, Kirkwood pulled Lundqvistq onto his back before taking the lead before the right-handed entry into Turn 7. It was a brave maneuver that ultimately proved crucial.
The three leaders had distanced themselves from the rest of the field in the early stages, but their lead disappeared immediately after seven laps due to a warning on the entire track when Carlin’s Australian shooter Alex Peroni overtook Robert while trying to find the wall of the tire at Turn 3 Megennis (Andretti Autosport) in seventh place.
Kirkwood again maintained his superiority on the restart, doing a series of fastest laps to extend his lead to 2.4 seconds with less than 10 laps remaining. Behind them, the battle for second place continued with undiminished intensity as Lundqvist, Malukas and the Englishman Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing), who had skilfully advanced from sixth on the grid, battled for position.
There was another stab in the rear when the yellow flags waved again four laps before the end after Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) was hit by the bumps at Turn 11 and hit the barriers hard in fifth place.
The cleanup only gave the Dames a lap, and while Lundqvist was trying to get Kirkwood moving at Turn 1 when the green flags were flying, the Jupiter, Florida native was up to the challenge and maintained his lead and eventually crossed the finish line with a little more than a second ahead of the Swedes.
“The goal was to get behind David on the first corner – the marbles are bad offline, so I knew if I got my nose under him he would be in the marbles,” said Kirkwood. “That was decisive for the win, with David and again with Linus. It’s extremely important to have those two wins this weekend.
“We started this weekend knowing we would be strong and we kept that momentum. I wish we had taken second pole position, but to have both wins is fantastic. We know how difficult it is to pass, everyone is so close, so taking the win from third place shows how strong we are. We started the weekend 27 points behind, so four points is a good result. But this route was phenomenal: I really like street courses, it reminds me of my karting days when you stand against the wall, it’s really bumpy and you just have to drive what you have. “
Malukas and Sowery followed closely behind in third and fourth, with Malukas taking some consolation for losing his championship lead by setting a new lap record for Indy Lights of 1: 21.4559 minutes.
Frost’s late mistake allowed DeFrancesco to slide into fifth place and top off a good start from ninth on the grid, though it wasn’t enough to prevent Covington, LA Carlin rookie Christian Bogle from making his second Tilton Winning the Hard Charger Award of the Year after starting twelfth and finishing seventh best of the season. Bogle’s performance was particularly commendable as he overtook three cars after a quick spin at the start of the race.
The championship fight continues next weekend with another pair of races at Road America.
Preliminary championship points after 8 out of 20 races:
1. Linus Lundqvist, 191
2. David Malukas, 190
3. Kyle Kirkwood, 187
4. Toby Sowery, 146
5. Devlin DeFrancesco, 130
6. Alex Peroni, 128
7. Danial Frost, 119
8. Benjamin Pedersen, 113
9. Robert Megennis, 109
10. Sting Ray Robb, 94