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Sunday, August 14, 2022
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Andretti-Bound in 2023, Kirkwood Only Focused on Delivering Win for AJ Foyt Racing

 

Kyle Kirkwood is solely focused on delivering a win to AJ Foyt Racing before departing to Andretti Autosport in 2023.
Kyle Kirkwood is solely focused on delivering a win to AJ Foyt Racing before departing to Andretti Autosport in 2023. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

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The future is set for Kyle Kirkwood, but the focus remains strictly on the present.

The 23-year-old Florida native and driver of the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was only six races through his rookie campaign in the NTT IndyCar Series when he was announced as Alexander Rossi’s replacement at Andretti Autosport for 2023.

While confirmation of next year’s plans could have created a lame duck scenario, Kirkwood refuses to look ahead. Instead, recognizing the grit and sweat put forth by his current team, the only thing on the agenda for Kirkwood is putting AJ Foyt Racing back in Victory Lane – something not experienced since 2013 (Takuma Sato, Long Beach).

“It’s a little bit of a strange dynamic,” Kirkwood told TobyChristie.com. “We were only a few races into the season, not even halfway through and we’re announcing already. And that was definitely strange for me because I’m used to announcing things like two weeks before the first event; that’s kind of how my entire career’s gone and now I’ve announced what I’m doing next year not before the middle of the season, which I was actually a bit concerned about.

“I was like, ‘Well this could be potentially put a sour taste in the team’s mouth.’ That’s something that I did not want to portray whatsoever. I mean, my entire focus has been with AJ Foyt Racing. Like, I’m not doing Andretti any favors at the moment. Right now, I work for one team and I want to succeed for them. My entire goal this year is to get a win for AJ Foyt Racing and that’s something I’ve been pushing harder and I’ve probably cared the most about this season than ever in my racing career. I’ve pushed harder and worked harder to try and get back up and claw our way back to the front.

“I hope I’ve shown that to the team and to everyone that can see from the outside, because it’s not like, even though we’ve announced it and I’ve got my future kind of set in place for at least at least next year, it’s not like I’ve stopped working hard to get what I think the team deserves at AJ Foyt Racing.”

Although the opening eight starts for Kirkwood are a mixed bag, there has been promising pace on several occasions. At Texas, his first-ever oval start, he put everyone on notice with his remarkable restarts and brave passing, charging from 23rd to lead five laps before ending up in the Turn 4 wall after 113 of 248 laps. There is also the strong showing on street circuits, breaking into the Fast 12 of qualifying at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, the latter of which also came with his first-ever top 10 (10th). In the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Kirkwood started 28th and was in the hunt for a top 10 until a slow final pitstop resulted in a 17th-place finish.

Although preparations have already begun with this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC), there are plenty of positives to take away from opening half of the season for Kirkwood and Co.

“I feel it’s gone well,” said Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights champion. “I’ve checked all the boxes that I’ve needed to, haven’t had any massive rookie mistakes and put put us in contention for a few top 10s. Unfortunately, I only got one of those but overall it’s been pretty solid. I think we’ve kind of overachieved on street courses and maybe underachieved on road courses. I mean the only two ovals we’ve done is Texas and Indy. Texas, we were doing really well and ended up in the wall trying to pass Devlin (DeFrancesco). Indy, we finished 17th from 28th; we just felt like we didn’t have that much pace. Overall, it’s been pretty. I think we’ve kind of maximized the most that we can.”

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