INDIANAPOLIS — Friday’s test between the top three drivers in the 2021 Indy Lights points standings will now move to Monday. Due to inclement weather in the forecast for the Indianapolis area on Friday, it was best to move it back for more favorable conditions.
There’s an 80% chance of rain on Friday compared to sunny skies in the mid 50’s on Monday. This test is on the road course so the rule of track temperature vs. ambient needing to combine to reach a certain range is out the window.
Kyle Kirkwood will test in the No. 26 Honda for Andretti Autosport. It will be the third time he’s done so in the last month. Lunqvist, now will drive the No. 29 Honda for Andretti too. The initial plan was for he and Kirkwood to share the seat in th eNo. 26 with Kirkwood doing the afternoon session from 2-5 p.m. ET on Friday and Lundqvist from 9 am- Noon prior.
But, the test on Monday will now run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET so an additional car was needed.
Malukas, will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet for Team Penske and do so during the same time frame. He was slated to run from 1 to 4 p.m. ET on Friday but that too has moved.
The combine test evaluating these NTT INDYCAR SERIES prospects is a reward for finishing in the top three positions in Indy Lights in the 2021 season. That’s part of the reward from the Road to Indy program.
Kirkwood, won 10 times this past season including 14 top two finishes in 20 races. Malukas, won seven times and had 12 top two results. Combined, they went 1-2 seven times this past year with six of them over the final eight races of the year.
Lundqvist, won the other three races including bookending the year with a win in the season opener at Barber and the season finale at Mid-Ohio. His other win came on the IMS road course in May.
The thing is, don’t look too deep into what each driver is testing.
Lundqvist’s ride is likely going to be Devlin DeFrancesco’s for 2022 as he’s slated to replace James Hinchcliffe. The 26 ride will stay with Colton Herta while Andretti is still trying to figure out a way to keep Kirkwood in house.
See, $1.3-million was awarded to Kirkwood via his Indy Lights championship this past season which is good enough for three races in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2022 including the Indianapolis 500. He’s obviously more valuable than three races.
Andretti just doesn’t have spots open for him with Herta, Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean and DeFrancesco taking the four seats and they don’t have the funding to run a fifth car full-time without some help.
That’s where Kirkwood and Malukas are tied to this.
Andretti Autosport doesn’t want to get rid of Kirkwood despite not yet having a seat for him. Vasser Sullivan is said to be in the works too for Kirkwood since he has a tie in with them via IMSA opportunities. The thing is, VSR appears to be breaking away from Dale Coyne Racing.
For 2023, VSR would like to be on their own but they can’t do so yet in 2022. They need a partnership and if DCR’s isn’t going to be a place to do so anymore, it would only make sense for them to shift over combine forces with Andretti on a fifth car.
DCR in return may team up with HMD who would be replacing VSR on the No. 18 Honda. In turn, they would obviously bring Malukas as their driver. He tested the No. 18 Honda in this same role at Barber this past Monday.
Which is why this test for Malukas in a Penske car on Monday now isn’t anything to look further at as Penske will scale back to three full time cars for 2022 and Malukas being likely with DCR in a partnership with HMD now.
On Saturday and Sunday, drivers from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the first two rungs of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system – Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – will test from 8 a.m.-5:15 p.m. during the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test.
The two-day Chris Griffis test provides drivers with the opportunity to sample the Road to Indy machinery while building momentum for the upcoming season. It’s named in memory of Chris Griffis, the former team manager of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who passed away suddenly in September 2011.