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IndyCar The Thermal Club Testing February testing

Kirkwood savors atmosphere, car-handling at Andretti Autosport

Andretti Autosport-Honda newcomer Kyle Kirkwood, who finished top of the fourth session in IndyCar’s test at Thermal Club, says he’s enjoying his new environment and the handling of his car.

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda

Kirkwood delivered top time in the final 2hr30min session in IndyCar’s inaugural two-day test at Thermal Club, near Palm Springs, CA., and said he’s reveling in the start of his sophomore season.

The sensational talent from Jupiter, FL, racked up 31 wins and was champion in the three Road To Indy categories, but had a troubling first year in IndyCar, driving for AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet, suffering too many incidents. However, Michael Andretti never lost faith in him and when Alexander Rossi split from the team, Kirkwood was the obvious choice to replace him.

An ebullient Kirkwood told media at Thermal Club today: “My entire goal last year was to take a car that everyone knows is usually mid-pack or towards the back and put it up front. That was always a goal of mine. That was exciting for me.

“But it's also exciting to be in a fast car and to be fast in a fast car. There's benefits to both. I'm just as excited as I was last year, to be honest. I'm definitely leaving this place in a happier spot than most of the events last year.”

Kirkwood said there was a “massive handling difference” between an Andretti car and a Foyt car, and said he felt a difference between Chevrolet and Honda “but I’m not going to elaborate”.

Despite returning to the team with which he won the Indy Lights championship in 2021, Kirkwood said he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with his #27 AutoNation crew at first.

“I mean, they're all very outgoing,” he explained. “They've all worked together for a long period. I'm almost like the misfit coming in! When they worked for Rossi for seven years, everyone gelled together with that. Now there's a new kid coming in, right?

“It's cool because they get along so, so well and they're kind of bringing me into their circle now, which is great. We're starting to gel.”

Kirkwood enjoyed the 17-turn 3.076-mile Thermal Club layout, but wasn’t convinced the data generated would be transferable to other tracks.

“I wouldn't say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right? This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it produced. Quite a bit faster than what we expected.”

But as he stated: “It's a new team for me, new group of guys. Gelling with them to see how everyone operates, see how their lingo is, is the most important thing.”

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