Kyffin Simpson isn’t old enough to drink, vote, or rent a car, but he’s about to have something no other teenager has, and that’s open access to Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, Jimmie Johnson, and the rest of the Chip Ganassi Racing team as the 17-year-old Indy Lights driver is welcomed into the program as part of a new driver development contract with the defending NTT IndyCar Series champions.
“I get to learn from all of their great IndyCar drivers, and I think that it’ll really help me grow,” the Indy Lights rookie told RACER.
Simpson ranks among the most interesting drivers on the Road to Indy. Drawing from a heavy karting background in his native Caribbean Islands, Simpson arrived in the Parella Motorsports Holdings-led Formula 4 U.S. Championship in the pandemic-affected 2020 season at the age of 15.
He also contested PMH’s faster Formula Regional Americas series in the same year, returned the following year to FRA with the TJ Speed team and won the championship on the strength of 13 podiums and seven race victories. And while the FRA series tends to lack the depth found on the Road to Indy, Simpson gave a proper account of his talent in a concurrent Indy Pro 2000 series program with Juncos Hollinger Racing where Simpson earned three podiums. All at the age of 16.
Through two Indy Lights races with the TJ Speed outfit, Simpson’s best performance was delivered earlier this month at Barber Motorsports Park where he placed fifth in the field of 14 drivers. Despite the short dossier, Simpson appears to have real talent worth honing, and thanks to his family’s success with auto dealerships and oil distribution in the Caribbean and a link to CGR through managing director Mike Hull, he’s about to go on a rocket ride that just might lead to a career in IndyCar.
“I’m going to be able to be on the timing stand and be able to be in debriefs, so I’ll be able to ask questions and learn from them and their experiences, because they’ve got some great guys on the team,” Simpson said. “IndyCar is the long-term goal, but I don’t really have a timeline for it. I’m just focused on doing Indy Lights right now and IndyCar when the time is right.”
The rest of Simpson’s year will be packed with more learning opportunities in Indy Lights, with CGR, and in IMSA where he’s part of the Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 program at the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s four longest races.
If the formula sounds familiar, it’s nearly identical to the path Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward followed as they learned on the Road to Indy, made good use of their connections to IndyCar teams and accrued invaluable mileage and knowledge through sports car endurance racing while preparing for big futures.
“I didn’t feel completely happy with how St. Petersburg started off in Lights, but I took that and I learned a lot from it, so going into Barber I felt a lot more confident and the results showed it,” Simpson said. “So I’m quite happy with how it’s going at this point and I feel confident that I’ll be able to do well in Indy this weekend.
“And I will be doing the last two IMSA endurance races at Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans with Gradient, so it’s a little bit different, but it’s a lot of fun to do. I’ve enjoyed all the longer races and just the whole experience as well with everything you get to learn.”