Lights champion Kirkwood joins the Foyt IndyCar team
Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood, the most complete driver of the next wave of young IndyCar newcomers, has finally found a free spot and will drive for AJ Foyt Racing next season.
Kirkwood will drive Foyt’s No. 14 Chevrolet, the team announced on Wednesday. SÃ©bastien Bourdais drove the car last season but is switching to sports car racing full time. Kirkwood will bring $ 1.3 million in purses for winning the Indy Lights title to the team.
The 23-year-old driver from Florida is the only driver to win championships in all three divisions of the Road to Indy ladder system. He won the USF2000 title in 2018, the Indy Pro 2000 title in 2019, and the Indy Lights Championship this year. The 2020 Indy Lights season has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kirkwood this year tied the late Greg Moore’s 1995 record of 10 Lights wins, but despite half of his starts and IndyCar scholarship money, he was not an automatic promotion. Andretti Autosport kept his contract, but Kirkwood was able to look for work elsewhere from November 1 when Michael Andretti was unable to choose the option.
Andretti hired former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean for next season from Dale Coyne Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco, 21, last week was promoted to IndyCar by Andretti after a winless season in Lights.
Andretti defended the DeFrancesco promotion as sticking to a plan established years earlier. But he also revealed that if Andretti had bought an F1 team, he would have taken Colton Herta from IndyCar and given Kirkwood the Herta seat.
âUnfortunately the way things ended there was no room for him, but I can assure you he’s a star from the future, and we’ll definitely be watching him,â Andretti said on the week. last about Kirkwood.
Kirkwood was also ignored by Rahal Letterman Lanigan, who last month appointed Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard as his new third driver. Meanwhile, Indy Lights rival David Malukas has tested with Dale Coyne Racing, and Kirkwood’s championship runner-up could find himself there in IndyCar alongside two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.
The IndyCar last season had four race winners aged 24 or under, including Spaniard Alex Palou, who kicked off his winning season 17 days after his 24th birthday.
Kirkwood is highly rated and the endurance driver of the Vasser-Sullivan Racing sports car team, but he was missing the sponsorship dollars that many teams want drivers to bring to secure the seat. Kirkwood only had money from his purse, which should cover two races and the Indy 500.
âThis deal was done pretty quickly, but I’ve already been impressed with the way Kyle sees racing and the maturity he seems to have for such a young driver,â said team president Larry Foyt. “We think Kyle will be a great asset as we take on these challenges and work to grow as a team.”
Kirkwood said Larry Foyt was one of the first people in the IndyCar paddock to take the time to show him around the big leagues when they met in 2018 at Road America when Kirkwood was racing at USF2000.
âFrom that point on I felt very comfortable with the team atmosphere, and now it turns out that I will be behind the wheel of the No.14,â Kirkwood said.
AJ Foyt Racing is owned by the quadruple Indianapolis 500 winner, who is considered one of the greatest racers of all time.
âIt’s hard to put into words the excitement I have to drive for such an experienced and legendary team,â said Kirkwood. “It’s amazing to see the completely unexpected path I took in previous years blossom into something I always hoped for as a kid in karting.”