LEXINGTON, Ohio – Rising star Kyle Kirkwood continued his astonishing record at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this morning by dominating the second leg of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio for Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., is now unbeaten in seven Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires races at the challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course.
Andretti Autosport teammate Danial Frost once again followed Kirkwood home in second, after starting from pole position, while David Malukas (HMD Motorsports), from Chicago, Ill., minimized the damage to his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship aspirations by finishing third. Malukas, who led the standings prior to the weekend, now trails Kirkwood by only 11 points with eight races remaining in the season.
After claiming his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year during qualifying on Saturday morning, Frost clung onto a tenuous lead for the opening lap but was unable to prevent Kirkwood from taking advantage of his AER engine’s 50-horsepower push-to-pass feature on the back straightaway next time around. Kirkwood used the slingshot effect to move ahead comfortably before the braking zone for Turn Four, and even though Frost would enjoy the same power boost, he was unable to get close enough to return the favor.
It was the same story following a brief full-course caution after Carlin’s Christian Bogle, from Covington, La., slid off the road in Turn One. Kirkwood again was able to keep his No. 28 car tantalizingly out of Frost’s reach before edging away to score another clear victory, his sixth of the season and a record-extending 27th of his extraordinary Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career in just 42 starts.
Frost seemed secure in second until the closing stages, when Malukas began to close in. Having overtaken Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports stablemate Linus Lundqvist, from Stockholm, Sweden, shortly after the restart, Malukas put his head down to close within striking range of Frost as the 35-lap race neared its conclusion but was never quite close enough to mount a serious challenge.
Lundqvist finished a relatively lonely, and disappointed, fourth, well clear of an entertaining battle between Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) and Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing). Englishman Sowery had earlier fought past Denmark’s Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports) following a protracted struggle, and looked set to displace DeFrancesco with five laps remaining. But DeFrancesco, from Miami, Fla., fought back, with the pair running side-by-side from Turn Four to Turn Eight before DeFrancesco was able – just – to maintain the status quo. Sowery had to be content with sixth and another Tilton Hard Charger Award.
The double one-two finish for Andretti Autosport moved them to within 17 points of HMD Motorsports, 387-370, in the Team Championship contest.
The entire Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires development ladder now takes a summer hiatus before convening at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., for the first-ever Indy Lights oval track double-header on August 20/21.
Provisional championship points after 12 of 20 races:
1. Kyle Kirkwood, 290
2. David Malukas, 279
3. Linus Lundqvist, 265
4. Danial Frost, 204
5. Toby Sowery, 201
6. Devlin DeFrancesco, 190
7. Robert Megennis, 183
8. Benjamin Pedersen, 179
9. Alex Peroni, 179
10. Sting Ray Robb, 140
Kyle Kirkwood (#28 Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors’ Club-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “Our plan at the start was to protect and stay one-two, not fight each other, which is what teammates should do since it makes it hard for third or fourth to make a move. Danial made a little mistake in the Keyhole and that allowed me to attack. With teammates, you never want to put yourself in a risky position but with push-to-pass, I knew I’d clear him into the brake zone and we’d pull away. If I would have had to dive in on him, I wouldn’t have taken that chance. We were able to then manage the gap and clear push-to-pass range. I’m so stoked with the performance from the entire team this weekend: to be one-two and to fend off the HMD guys, that was great. Hats off to the team; the cars are just unreal here.
“I’m from Florida, but I really consider Mid-Ohio to be my home track – I enjoy driving here. There’s something about the high-speed corners and high grip – as opposed to most tracks, lap times go up as it gets warmer, not down. This is the track I have the most laps on and I’ve done really well here. But that said, everyone is talking about this ‘streak’ but I still have the same mentality that I’ve always had – that these streaks can come to an end at any time. Trends aren’t everything, but it’s going good right now.”
Danial Frost (#68 DEN-JET Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “We got a good gap at the start but I made a small mistake going into Turn Two on the second lap. Kyle saw that and got a run using the push-to-pass to get by me. I tried to get him on the restart but he had the upper hand. At that point, I settled into second waiting to see what would happen, but it seemed as though the rear of the car went off a bit and I started struggling. I had to push to keep Malukas behind me. But things are going well now – we’re starting to understand the car a lot better and the feedback is going in the right direction. We’ve done a solid job and I’m quite proud of the team for making us quick these past two weekends.”
David Malukas (#79 HMD Trucking-HMD Motorsports Dallara-AER IL-15): “The start was okay. The run off wasn’t as good as yesterday but we were already in a straight line by Turn One. I stayed behind Linus in Turn Two which wasn’t the move, and that almost allowed DeFrancesco to get by. We know we have the straight-line speed, but the race was just so tough. It’s so hard to be behind someone here – if you get too close, you get huge understeer.”