Two NTT IndyCar Series qualifying sessions down and two appearances in the Firestone Fast 12 for A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Kyle Kirkwood. The triple Road To Indy champion has been on the attack in qualifying and, after qualifying 12th at St. Petersburg in the No. 14 Chevy, the Floridian backed it up with another run to 12th on Saturday at Long Beach.
He’s still chasing a finishing position that complements his starting position, but on his current trajectory it’s only a matter of time before Kirkwood delivers.
“That was good. Our mentality here was to try and get in the top 10 — at least into the Fast 12 — which we did,” he told RACER. “Now, we want more. I hate seeing my name on the bottom of that list of 12 drivers, but we got good company around us. The car feels good and I executed good laps. It’s just that the pace wasn’t there. I’m not sure what it is. Now we’ll go back and review some things. Some things changed from qualifying round one to round two that we didn’t change on the car, so it’s a little bit strange. So we’ll go back to drawing board and see what we can do to get more out of it.”
Most rookies driving for a rebuilding team would be ecstatic to start 12th. Kirkwood, as IndyCar fans are learning, isn’t wired that way.
“No, that’s not the case; I’m not happy,” he said. “I’m gonna keep striving for more [because] 12th isn’t good enough for me. There’s no way that our name should be at the bottom of that Fast 12 list.”
Kirkwood wasn’t being arrogant with his answer to the question. He simply doesn’t know how to accept anything less than ultimate success, and considering how strongly he and the team have come together in the early rounds, the jump from a 450hp Indy Lights car to Foyt’s 750hp Dallara DW12-Chevy should lead to brighter days.
“It seems pretty simple to me,” Kirkwood said. “It’s just another racecar, and it’s the same thing I’ve done my entire career. It’s just a faster, bigger, heavier racecar and it suits me, I guess. I’m just happy with the team. There’s good chemistry here. Everyone’s starting to work together properly and I’m getting more comfortable in the car. So hopefully we start getting some real results.”
Asked if he was fazed by going up against some of IndyCar’s biggest names in Fast 12 qualifying — 10 of his 11 rivals on Saturday are either IndyCar champions or race winners — Kirkwood gave another honest response: “Those are the people I’m hunting, 100%,” he declared. “I mean, they’re all big names and all that, but we’re all drivers. We all have a lot of respect for each other but we all want [is] to beat each other. So they’re just objects on the track to get in front of.”