A significant off-track week for Kyle Kirkwood extended to more good news Friday on track at the Raceway at Belle Isle.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Kirkwood was the quickest driver under sunny skies Friday afternoon during the opening practice for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, with a best lap of 1 minute, 16.1345 seconds in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet. The practice-leading performance – the first time Kirkwood or a Foyt driver has led a session this season – came just two days after Andretti Autosport announced Kirkwood will replace 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the team’s No. 27 AutoNation Honda starting in the 2023 season.
This was the second session Kirkwood led today on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit. He also was the quickest driver in the GTD class during the second practice and qualifying for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, as Kirkwood is pulling double duty this weekend.
Kirkwood’s speed in both machines shouldn’t be that surprising, as he won both Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races last June on Belle Isle en route to the 2021 series championship.
“I guess I really like this place,” Kirkwood said. “It’s going well so far. The car was quick for Seb (Bourdais) last year through the practices and qualifying, as well. We (Foyt team) kind of brought that same car, maybe a little bit of upgrades. It paid off.
“We’ll see how the track evolves. It can always change as a street course. You never know. But right now we’re feeling good, feeling confident. We’ve been solid at all the street courses. It’s nice to see our name at the top of the charts.”
Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge runner-up Pato O’Ward ended up in the same position today with a top lap of 1:16.1556 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Rossi, who was announced Thursday as O’Ward’s new Arrow McLaren SP teammate starting in 2023, was third at 1:16.5146 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.
Simon Pagenaud was fourth at 1:16.6177 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda, while newly crowned Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five at 1:16.6574 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda despite a busy week of media and publicity work after his stirring Indy victory, including a whirlwind promotional tour of New York City on Tuesday.
Ericsson and O’Ward also picked up where they left off last year, as they were the winners of the doubleheader event in 2021. This year’s event – the last on Belle Isle before the race moves to downtown Detroit in 2023 – is a single race Sunday, with live coverage starting at 3 p.m. (ET) on USA Network, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Saturday’s action starts with practice at 8:30 a.m., followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 12:35 p.m.
There was one incident during the 45-minute session Friday. Felix Rosenqvist slid through Turn 1 and hit the tire barrier with his No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, inflicting moderate damage to the left side of the car. Rosenqvist was unhurt.