Michael Andretti knows his Indy Lights championship leader Kyle Kirkwood is drawing interest from rival teams. He also knows the $1.3 million advancement prize Kirkwood can win this weekend at the Road To Indy season finale at Mid-Ohio could ease the 22-year-old’s path to an NTT IndyCar Series debut next season.

The latest rumors suggest Kirkwood could land in one of Andretti’s Honda-powered entries in 2022 at a frequency to be determined, and his name has also been mentioned as an option for Andretti’s vacant Formula E seat. One thing is clear: Andretti doesn’t want to face Kirkwood as an opponent.

“We don’t want to lose him; he’s got to be in the family, but I just can’t say exactly where,” Andretti told RACER. “There’s a chance we could have him in IndyCar, and it could be somewhere else as well.”

Kirkwood’s ascension up the RTI has been a record-breaking affair. His USF2000 championship in 2018 came by winning 12 of 14 races. He took the advancement prize to Indy Pro 2000 in 2019, when nine wins from 16 races gave the Florida native his second consecutive title.

Through 18 rounds so far in Indy Lights, Kirkwood’s taken nine victories, including the last three in dominant fashion, to hold the lead over fellow American David Malukas entering this weekend’s title-deciding doubleheader.

“Everything he’s been in, he’s dominated, and you know what he did at Monterey winning both races, for instance, just impressed the hell out of me,” Andretti said. “And also Portland; he had a bad qualifying, but he got a first and a second. If he wins a championship, it’ll probably be because of that race weekend. I think he’s the real deal.”