The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has been a happy hunting ground for Kyle Kirkwood. One year ago he swept all three rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship en route to winning the title and a Mazda Scholarship to ensure his graduation to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2019. He also won all three F3 Americas races last season and claimed one F4 victory in 2017. This afternoon he added to that tally by leading from flag to flag in Round 11 of the Indy Pro 2000 series.
Kirkwood’s fourth win from the last five races for RP Motorsports USA has vaulted him to second in the championship standings, just 24 points adrift of series leader Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, who finished a slightly fortuitous second for Juncos Racing after starting sixth.
Kirkwood’s teammate Ian Rodriguez, from Guatemala, completed the podium in third.
After the first attempt at a start was waved off, polesitter Kirkwood, 20, from Jupiter, Fla., jumped hard on the throttle as soon as the green flag waved and immediately pulled a car’s length lead over his title rival Lindh, who had started second. Teammate Rodriguez also made a lightning-fast start, leaping from fifth on the grid to third inside the opening half-lap.
The next lap spelled disaster for a pair of championship aspirants, with early season points leader Parker Thompson suffering a mechanical problem and Abel Motorsports teammate Jacob Abel tangling with fourth-in-the-points Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) at the kink on the main straight while disputing fourth place. All three cars were out of the race and the Pace Car was scrambled while the damaged cars were removed.
Kirkwood quickly reasserted himself at the restart, eventually winning by 2.7 seconds, while Rodriguez continued his charge by slipping past Lindh for second place at Turn 4.
The focus remained on the battle for second as Kirkwood made his escape, with Rodriguez doing his best to fend off the two Juncos cars of Lindh and Sting Ray Robb. The pair exchanged positions on Lap 13, when Robb sliced past at Turn Four, then continued to circulate in close formation as the 25-lap race reached toward its conclusion.
A brief full-course caution to retrieve Moises de la Vara’s DEForce Racing Tatuus PM-18, which had succumbed to a suspension failure, set the scene for a three-lap dash to the finish. Rodriguez and Robb raced side by side for most of the first lap following the restart, before a coming together at the exit of Turn 4 sent Rodriguez bouncing across the grass.
Lindh took full advantage of the melee by sneaking through into second, and even though Robb resumed ahead of Rodriguez, he was instructed by race officials to redress the order prior to the finish. Robb did so, but at the same time inadvertently allowed Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin to nip through to fourth place for Exclusive Autosport.
RP Motorsports took home its season-leading fourth PFC Award as the winning team, while Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing) earned his first Tilton Hard Charger Award after climbing from 13th on the grid to seventh.
Round 11 will take place Sunday at 10:00 a.m. EDT, with Kirkwood looking to add to his victory tally after earlier today emerging comfortably fastest during qualifying.