INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Kirkwood is one of eight NTT INDYCAR Series drivers here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday taking part in a test session around the 2.439-mile road course layout. The rookie driver just raced here last month to where he started 22nd but finished 26th after retiring from contact 53 laps in.
However, this place is one that he feels the most comfort at. That’s because he’s made not only several starts here in the Road to Indy program, but he’s also had a ton of different test sessions allowed too in various forms of motorsports. That’s why he’s here behind the wheel in his No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet making laps in hopes to coming back next month with a shot of improvement.
“It’s very comfortable. It’s also one of the tracks that’s not as punishing if you make a mistake,” he told me in the shadows of victory lane on a warm Thursday afternoon in the Circle City. “It gives you a comfort of that as well and you learn things fast. Tires come in quick here. Do 2 laps and you’re in. That’s always nice for testing. I think already we’ve found some things to carry over to road courses and street courses.”
Kirkwood has shown pace this season most notably in Texas back in March or even at Belle Isle to where he was fastest in the opening practice and on race day had pace and the skill at a top 10. That skill is what he hopes to show more of on a consistent basis as the year goes on and this test on Thursday is equally as valuable to allow him to showcase it at the remaining 9 races on the schedule.
“Nothing too surprising,” he said of his rookie season thus far. “I think we’ve overachieved on street courses and under achieved on road courses from what out potential is. There’s not big surprises. I’ve always strive to get more so I’m never satisfied with anything I ever do. That’s just my feeling.”
So in order to get there, they’d approached this test differently.
“We’ve kind of gone about today kind of with a different philosophy,” he notes. “We’ve made some pretty big changes that we normally wouldn’t do on a race weekend. I feel like we’ve learned stuff that we can carry through to a lot of tracks.
“It’s nice having McLaren guys and Andretti guys to base stuff off of.”
The Andretti guys are what he’s going to be apart of in 2023 but before he gets to 2023, he wants to go out and give Foyt their first win since Long Beach in 2013. The all-time wins leader in the Road to Indy program is going to be a star one day. The potential is there. But this kid is also loyal and doesn’t care about racing for Andretti next season yet because he has a job to do and that’s to take his famed 14 car back to victory lane.
Nothing short of that will make him happy and that’s just the way that he and most professional athletes are wired. It’s why they’re built different than you and me. They strive for greatness and for someone like Kirkwood, he’s destined for it.