Kyle Kirkwood has raced just three times at Road America during his short career, but the native of Jupiter, Fla., is now three-for-three following an exemplary performance in this afternoon’s Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines.
Kirkwood, a double winner last year en route to a dominant Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship title, was chased home by unheralded but impressive RP Motorsports USA teammate Ian Rodriguez, with polesitter Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports) forced to settle for third at the conclusion of a dramatic 15-lap race marked by a pair of full-course cautions.
The drama began at the first corner when Singapore’s Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) ran wide at the exit and thumped the curb heavily enough to cut his car’s electrical system completely. The resulting DNF was a stark about face in emotions following his spectacular maiden victory in last month’s Lucas Oil Raceway event.
The pace car was scrambled while Frost’s stricken car was removed from the racing surface, and at the restart Thompson found himself a sitting duck as Kirkwood took advantage of vastly superior straight-line speed to tow past on the start/finish straight and claim the lead comfortably before the braking area for Turn One.
Kirkwood immediately romped away in the lead, leaving Thompson to come under increasing pressure from Rodriguez, who had started sixth.
The other big early mover was Mexico’s Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), who vaulted from 10th on the grid to fourth on the opening lap ahead of the Juncos Racing pair of Sting Ray Robb and championship leader Rasmus Lindh, who found himself shuffled back from second to sixth in the early stages. Lindh quickly made his way past Robb for fifth, then found a way past de la Vara on lap five.
Lindh rapidly reduced a deficit of over three seconds to the ongoing battle for second between Thompson and Rodriguez to less than a second, at which point the caution flags waved again following an incident for de la Vara at Turn One.
The ensuing restart once again proved disastrous for Thompson, who was freight-trained by Rodriguez and Lindh into Turn One. The Canadian only just managed to stem the tide before Nikita Lastochkin (Exclusive Autosport) found a way past too.
As Kirkwood romped away once again in the lead to claim a first Indy Pro 2000 win for himself and a first PFC Award for the RP Motorsports USA team, teammate Rodriguez narrowly held onto second as Thompson expertly took advantage of a brief loss of momentum by Lindh on the final lap to reclaim a hard-won third place.
Rodriguez’s drive also earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting the race in sixth.