Road America Indy Lights: Kirkwood wins, avoids early mayhem

Kyle Kirkwood scored his fourth win of the Indy Lights season in Race 1 at Road America and took the championship lead after the front-row starters clashed ahead of him.

Road America Indy Lights: Kirkwood wins, avoids early mayhem

Front-row starter David Malukas in the HMD Motorsports car tried to go around the outside of Andretti Autosport’s surprise polesitter Danial Frost at Turn 1 on Lap 1, but Frost was squeezed up on the grass and dirt on the inside curb, slid off and the pair made contact.

Their subsequent spin left Devlin DeFrancesco with nowhere to go, so he fell into the runoff zone on the outside and sustained damage, and also delayed the fourth-place starter, Kyle Kirkwood.

The end result was that Toby Sowery, who had qualified sixth in the Juncos Racing entry, suddenly found himself in the lead. That lasted only a lap, however, as Linus Lundqvist in the second Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports car blasted past on the front straight to grab P1.

Down the long drag from Turn 3 to Turn 5, Kirkwood drew alongside Sowery and outbraked him on the inside to move up into second. A lap later, Alex Peroni’s Carlin car, which had badgered Kirkwood over the opening lap, did a great over/under on Sowery through left-handed Turn 5 and into left-handed Turn 6 to knock Sowery out of the podium places.

On Lap 5, Kirkwood was in prime position to blast alongside Lundqvist on the run down to Turn 5 and passed him on the outside before the turn-in point to take the lead. A lap after that, Peroni completed a messier version of his over/under at Turn 5 to pass Lundqvist for second going into Turn 6.

Kirkwood and Peroni had both sacrificed qualifying pace to save a new set of Cooper Tires for the race and it was now paying off, especially for the leader, who had pulled 2.8sec ahead his chaser. However, Peroni then suffered a gearbox failure and had to pit, leaving Kirkwood nine seconds ahead of HMD teammates Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen, the latter of whom had made some deft moves in the early laps to climb from 10th on the grid.

Robert Megennis, who had fallen off the track on the opening lap, had passed Sowery for fourth, with Antonio Serravalle’s Pserra Racing in sixth ahead of the recovering Malukas.

Pedersen’s hunt of Lundqvist paid off superbly on the 19th lap of 20, passing his teammate around the outside of Turn 5, and leaving him to fend off Megennis. It’s something that Lundqvist couldn’t quite achieve, Megennis outbraking him down the inside at Turn 5 to claim third on the final lap.

Malukas’ Lap 1 issues and Lundqvist’s slip down the order mean that Kirkwood now leads the championship, eight points ahead of Lundqvist and 14 ahead of Malukas.

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