Kyle Kirkwood was fastest in rookie testing for the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday.
Piloting the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, Kirkwood put down a flying lap at 219.784 mph (23.5868s) around the 1.5-mile oval. The pace came in the final hour of running and put the reigning Indy Lights champion ahead of Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) by a narrow 0.721s.
“I mean, from the beginning of the day I went out there, I’m like, ‘Man, this place is quick. This is a lot of fun,'” Kirkwood told TobyChristie.com. “And as a day progressed, I got more and more comfortable. We ran through a lot of setup things that we think we possibly found some benefits, but honestly, the track was so good today that it was just easy-flat all the way around. I think all the other drivers would be able to tell you that, too. So it’s hard to tell what it’s going to be like in the race, but I think it’s good just for my first time to get out there and get comfortable, closing rates and understanding what kind of speeds we’re doing because I had to keep my eyes up today, look a lot further down the roads.”
Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean, who held the top spot for a majority of the day, ended up third-fastest overall, but fastest among the no-tow speeds with a pace at 218.691 mph. This was the next step in the acclimation process for Grosjean after competing in his first oval race at World Wide Technology Gateway last August, where he finished 14th.
“It’s just about learning ovals,” Grosjean said. “I’m still very much a rookie on ovals, so just getting the feel of it. I learned Gateway last year, I did my ROP for the Indy 500, but Texas is a, a different type. So within the ovals, you know, there’s a lot of different circuits, so it’s getting up to speed, making sure I get confident in the car, comfortable and finding what will be the best race balance for us when we come in March 20 (for the XPEL 375).”
David Malukas (Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports), Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosports) and Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) completed the rest of the running order of the six participating drivers. All six drivers were separated by 0.3122s.
The session at Texas was the first-ever introduction of any kind for Ilott and Lundgaard, both of whom spent the majority of their respective careers competing in road racing throughout different categories throughout Europe.
Perhaps the best description of an oval inauguration I've ever heard, courtesy of @RLLracing's @lundgaardoff. 1/2 #IndyCar #RookieTest pic.twitter.com/7yD9TdpPiM
— Joey Barnes (@JoeyBarnes85) March 2, 2022
A few veterans were around to lend advice and mentorship for some of the rookies. JR Hildebrand did a shakedown in the No. 14 Foyt entry for Kirkwood, while Graham Rahal did the same for Lundgaard in the No. 30 RLL Racing Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, didn’t step in to shakedown a car but was on the timing stand for Ilott.
There were 957 laps total logged on the day, with Malukas pounding the pavement the most with 210 laps total. Lundgaard put down the second-most laps in the session with 186.
The morning session featured mostly single-car running, while there was a blend of single-car and group running in the afternoon. The most intense part of the day came in the final hour when up to four cars were grouped together, with some side-by-side runs featured mostly through Turns 3 and 4.
Another IndyCar test at Texas Motor Speedway is set to run on Monday, March 7, featuring a number of veterans including Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Will Power.