After a successful campaign, the 2021 Indy Lights Series champion, Kyle Kirkwood, is gearing up for his first IndyCar season, which will come in the full-time No. 14 A.J. Foyt entry.
Kirkwood is coming off an Indy Light season where the Jupiter, Florida native scored 10 wins (half of the race schedule), had 14 podium finishes, and scored six pole positions to his credit. In doing so, Kirkwood is one of the hottest rookies entering the IndyCar schedule but knows the series will be a challenge through the first few races that begin on the Streets of St. Peterburg.
“Of course, it’s going to be a tougher crowd racing in INDYCAR,” Kirkwood said about the 2022 season. “I fully expect that. That’s what I’ve known coming up through all the ranks. Most of the drivers in Road to Indy are rookies. I’m coming into INDYCAR as a rookie where there are veteran drivers that have been here for 15 years I think some of them have been. It’s all new to me. Of course, I have to take a step back, know I need to learn some things. Most of the time, most of the categories, I came into it knowing I probably had the most knowledge. Now I’ve got probably the least.”
Before Kirkwood landed the ride with A.J. Foyt Racing, he was in talks with Andretti Autosport to replace one of the two drivers leaving the team and had there not been an open IndyCar ride, Kirkwood potentially could have ended up in Formula E instead where he participated in the rookie test at Marrakesh in February of 2020. However, the Andretti Autosport deal did not come to fruition. Fortunately for Kirkwood, he was able to land a ride with A.J. Foyt.
“I have to jog my memory how much I can talk about it,” the Florida native said about racing for Foyt. “I know Michael did come out at a press conference speaking about the F1 deal, and whatnot. Just bounced off of him. They did have the option for a period of time. Once they found out they couldn’t fill me into a seat, they opened up that option. We made some calls. A.J. Foyt Racing was the best fit for us.”
Kirkwood has won three Road to Indy championships (IndyCar’s version of a developmental system) and has given the system credit knowing that he might not be where he is today without winning three of the championships.
Kirkwood then spoke about the process of climbing his way up the ladder.
“It’s made it so much easier for me because as everyone knows finding sponsorships, funding, junior categories, is nearly impossible. The return on investment for sponsors is pretty much non-existent because there’s none of this broadcasting, being able to put things out. A lot of sponsorships aren’t visible.
“Having those scholarships from the Road to Indy has been absolutely crucial for my career. That all started from 2012. My first scholarship was with AJ Allmendinger, then a couple of years later, a Team USA scholarship. After I would be the (recipient of) the P4 scholarship, Honda had a scholarship to go to F3. Without All the Road to Indys, leading up now to what is INDYCAR, a 1.25 million dollars scholarship into INDYCAR. I don’t think I would have made it here this quick. I think there’s a possibility I would have still made it to INDYCAR without the scholarships, but this has obviously made it a much easier transition.”