Kyle Kirkwood extended his winning streak at Road America to four – from just four starts – following this morning’s Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines.
Kirkwood (RP Motorsport USA) chased pole-sitting Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points leader Rasmus Lindh through the opening five laps, then pounced decisively at Turn 5. He then held off Lindh’s unrelenting but ultimately unsuccessful effort to regain the advantage to score his fourth successive victory at the fabled Wisconsin road course.
Lindh finished just over a half-second back in second place for the defending champion Juncos Racing team to keep a useful 30-point lead in the championship standings over Parker Thompson who completed the podium for Abel Motorsports.
A clean start to the 15-lap race, run entirely under green-flag conditions, saw Lindh maintain his pole position advantage, but he was unable to shake Kirkwood, who had started third before vaulting past Lindh’s teammate, Sting Ray Robb, on the drag race to Turn 1.
Kirkwood latched on to Lindh’s rear wing as the two leaders traded early fastest laps, before glimpsing an opportunity at Turn 5 and squeezing down the inside under braking.
Now the situation was reversed, with Lindh looking to redress the balance; but Kirkwood was steadfast in his defense and ultimately crossed underneath the waved checkered flags just 0.5847s to the good. Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 champion also secured the second PFC Award of the weekend for RP Motorsport USA.
“That was big,” said Kirkwood. “We had an oil pressure light [come on] before the race started, and three laps in, the light came back on and I watched it through the entire race. I kept pushing, and toward the end the car felt different which was scary, so it was a huge relief to cross the line.
“I really worked for the pass on Rasmus. I didn’t want to make a move until I was sure. He made a small mistake and that created the draft to make a deep pass. I’m not certain I would have been able to get him if not for that, so it was some luck and some strategy.
“But this is a big confidence boost. We came off five races where we lost points, but we took a big chunk out of [his points lead] this weekend. We’ll have a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season –- and that’s really what we did last year with Cape (Motorsports). There were weekends that our car wasn’t that quick, but we got the win because we had confidence as a team; and that’s what I think we have now. I raced all these guys last year except for Parker, who’s an amazing driver, so that’s a new challenge. We just have to keep this momentum going.”
A close battle for third place between Robb, Canada’s Thompson and Singapore’s Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) ended prematurely when Frost pulled off the road with an electrical failure after nine laps and then Robb retired to the pits shortly afterward with a mechanical problem.
Guatemalan Ian Rodriguez took advantage to finish fourth aboard a second RP Motorsport USA Tatuus PM-18, while Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin made up the three places he had lost on the opening lap to finish fifth.
A thoroughly entertaining race also was enlivened by a tremendous five-car battle over what eventually became sixth place. Jacob Loomis emerged with the position and the Tilton Hard Charger Award after a fine drive from 10th on the grid in his family-run JDL Racing entry. Phillippe Denes (FatBoy Racing) finished hot on his heels in seventh, followed by Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing).
DEForce teammates Moises de la Vara and Kory Enders also had been part of the scrap before encountering mechanical problems of their own.
The next two rounds of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will be held on the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada — once again in support of the NTT IndyCar Series — on July 13-14.