Kirkwood says pressure has eased as he aims to strengthen Team Foyt
Kirkwood comes to IndyCar with a phenomenal reputation in Road to Indy’s open-wheel junior classes, the first driver to win the USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights championship.
However, Andretti Autosport, with whom he raced in Lights, was unable to secure a place for him in IndyCar after Michael Andretti’s Formula 1 plans with Alfa Romeo failed. That meant Colton Herta, who picked up three wins last year, didn’t leave the IndyCar team.
This left Kirkwood looking for a drive just as Foyt needed a potential or established star to replace the legendary Sebastien Bourdais, whose main focus became the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Ganassi. So Kirkwood signed with a team that has scored just one podium finish in the last six years, but the 23-year-old from Jupiter, Fla. says it’s actually an ideal environment for a rookie.
“Being with AJ Foyt Racing has been phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve been super open, made me feel like family, been great sharing data with me, making sure I’m super up to date on their testing.”
Asked specifically about the recent struggles of the Texas team, he replied: “It relieves me, yes. At the same time, I think it’s beneficial for me because, as I said, the team has been super open with me.
“They also want to learn. I was able to bring some kind of experience from my story, try to focus and try to get something out of our car here.
“I think we will grow together as a team. I think the chemistry worked perfectly.
Given that his teammates will be rookie Tatiana Calderon and journeyman Dalton Kellett, one can assume that Kirkwood will find it difficult to judge his own performance this coming season. But he said it should still be possible to assess his and the team’s progress over the coming season.
“If we go into a weekend we know we can do well and we’re not doing well, it’s not a good weekend for us, we haven’t maximized what we can do,” he explained. “Our goal is to improve the car as much as possible. I need to teach myself as a new IndyCar driver, as a rookie.
“As I said, I think we can build on each other and maybe develop something big. There are great things happening with the team, a lot of new people on board, new ongoing developments. I think we have a good chance of turning some heads this year.
“You can only do the best you can, and the equipment, the quality of my ride, whatever it is, what the conditions are. It all comes from within. I don’t think you can looking from the outside, you can’t be a third person trying to figure out how you are doing. It just comes from within. How you feel as a team is more important.