Kyle Kirkwood and RP Motorsport USA are simply untouchable just now. This afternoon at the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway road course, Kirkwood, mirrored the picture perfect weather conditions with another exemplary performance. His weekend sweep of the Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix ensured a sixth consecutive victory and turned a nine-point deficit prior to the weekend into a healthy 20-point lead in his quest for a second consecutive Road to Indy championship crown. Kirkwood, 20, from Jupiter, Fla., also dominated last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship by winning 12 of the 14 races.
Sting Ray Robb, from Payette, Idaho, finished a distant second but still comfortably clear of Juncos Racing teammate – and Kirkwood’s nearest title rival – Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden.
After qualifying on pole yesterday, for the fifth time this season, Kirkwood leapt immediately into the lead and soon began to edge away from Robb, whose career-first pole yesterday had been nullified by a first corner incident. Robb made it cleanly through the opening complex of corners this time but had no answer to Kirkwood’s dominating speed.
The gap stretched out to two seconds inside the first five laps and continued to rise before Kirkwood crossed the finish line with an eventual margin of 7.5856 seconds.
Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports), from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, managed to oust Lindh from third place on the opening lap but wasn’t able to prevent the Swedish teenager from redressing the balance next time around. The two cars continued to circulate in close company – and slipped farther and farther behind Robb – without Thompson ever looking likely to be able to make a pass for the final podium position.
Instead, Thompson had to keep a wary eye on his mirrors as Kirkwood’s teammate, Artem Petrov, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, edged ever closer after finding a way past Singapore’s Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) just before the midway point in the 30-lap race. The trio was separated by just over a second at the checkered flag, with Petrov taking home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting in the sixth position.
As well as claiming one more PFC Award for RP Motorsport USA as the winning team, Kirkwood will now head to the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, Calif., on September 21/22. His eyes will be set firmly on securing the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tire title and another scholarship, valued at almost $600,000, to graduate to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step of the acclaimed Road to Indy, in 2020.
Provisional championship points after 14 of 16 rounds:
1. Kyle Kirkwood, 382
2. Rasmus Lindh, 362
3. Parker Thompson, 300
4. Danial Frost, 294
5. Sting Ray Robb, 280
6. Nikita Lastochkin, 217
7. Kory Enders, 179
8. Moises de la Vara, 170
9. Jacob Abel, 167
10. Antonio Serravalle, 164
Kyle Kirkwood (#28 Mazda/Firstex Industries/Bell Helmets/Sabelt-RP Motorsports USA Tatuus PM-18): “It was really tough starting up front with Sting Ray and Rasmus; I knew the start would mean a lot. I caught them off guard enough to get away on the first lap and created enough of a gap that they couldn’t reach me. I set a succession of fast laps but when you’re that far out in front, you can’t help but think about what can go wrong and when the yellow is going to come. You have everything to lose. None of this would be possible without the RP Motorsports team. They’re the hardest working team out here.
“But I’m thinking about all the drivers in Europe, in the F2 series, and Anthoine [Hubert]. It doesn’t matter what series it is – INDYCAR, NASCAR, F1, IMSA – it’s all family.”
Sting Ray Robb (#2 Go Out Local/Big Idaho Potato Truck/OMP/Intervention.com-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “It was a great weekend – we made a good step forward in my progression as a driver, and the team did really well. We made a strong showing; what happened yesterday was just one of those racing incidents where the guys behind me decided not to hit their brakes. It’s unfortunate to not get a run at the win but today was a good recovery. A huge thanks to the Juncos crew; they were awesome. But I’m going to miss having my home crowd with me at Laguna Seca. We had over 200 people here this weekend, and it was great.”
Rasmus Lindh (#10 Chicago Pneumatic/PWR Junior Team/SKF-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “I did everything I could this weekend. Thanks so much to the Juncos Racing team. We didn’t get the setup perfect because the track was so different after the IndyCar race. We weren’t sure what to do to save the tires. We were sliding around a bit. But Parker was always on my gearbox. I just tried to keep him out of my draft. Everything is still possible, you don’t know what will happen in the races, so we’re still going for the championship.”