Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Kyle Kirkwood loves the Streets of St. Petersburg. At the track where he made a victorious debut on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires by winning his first USF2000 race and championship in 2018, Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., today added a stylish maiden Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory.
Kirkwood bounced back impressively from a difficult weekend at Barber Motorsports Park last week by leading home Andretti Autosport teammate Danial Frost by a little over a second. David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., who won one of the races last week in Alabama, finished third for HMD Motorsports.
The first of two Indy Lights races this weekend, the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Foundation Building Materials began with Kirkwood on pole courtesy of snagging his first Indy Lights Cooper Tires Pole Award in qualifying on Friday.
He duly led the field into the heavy braking area at Turn One, where outside front row starter Malukas locked up his brakes and slid a little wide, which allowed Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco to sneak into second for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.
Kirkwood immediately put his head down and began to extend his advantage, leaving the rest to battle in his wake. And battle they did! Malukas began to heap the pressure on DeFrancesco, with Frost, who was clearly on a mission, hot on their heels. A fine move to the inside under braking for Turn One saw Frost slide past Malukas, who then fell victim to a late-braking move by yet another Andretti Autosport Dallara, that of New Yorker Robert Megennis, in Turn Four.
From hoping to challenge for the lead, Malukas suddenly found himself in sixth, only just ahead of another fine tussle between points leader Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports), from Stockholm, Sweden, making his street course debut, and Australian Alex Peroni (Carlin), who themselves exchanged positions on Lap 7.
Ten laps later, Lundqvist’s attempt to redress the balance at Turn One went badly awry as he left his braking far too late, cannoned into the Australian and spun. He resumed after a pit stop at the back of the field.
In the meantime Malukas had managed to repass Megennis and begun to close on Frost, who in turn was chasing hard after DeFrancesco.
As Kirkwood moved clear to the tune of over four seconds, DeFrancesco’s hopes of wresting the championship lead turned sour as he misjudged his braking for the final corner and skated off into the barriers. Cue a full-course caution.
Kirkwood’s hard-won advantage was erased in a flash but the Floridian was unfazed. He quickly reasserted himself at the restart and even posted the fastest lap of the race just two circuits from the end to cement an accomplished victory – his 22nd on the three levels of the Road to Indy, now only two behind Spencer Pigot’s record tally.
Frost held off the advances of Malukas to finish second, with Megennis in fourth. Peroni completed the top five having profited from a late error by Denmark’s Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports), who rejoined to finish 10th.
Last year’s winner of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing), from Payette, Idaho, finished right on Peroni’s tail. Robb’s effort earned himself the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having started 12th.
The green flag for tomorrow’s fourth round of the championship, the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Andersen Interior Contracting, will fly at 10:00 a.m EDT. Malukas will start from pole position after posting a new qualifying lap record in a second dedicated session on Friday evening.
Provisional championship points after 3 of 20 races:
1. Linus Lundqvist, 69
2. David Malukas, 62
3. Kyle Kirkwood, 61
4. Devlin DeFrancesco, 53
5. Benjamin Pedersen, 50
6. Alex Peroni, 49
7. Danial Frost, 48
8. Toby Sowery, 46
9. Robert Megennis, 42
10. Sting Ray Robb, 41