Kirkwood shows same potential as Herta, Newgarden, says engineer

Andretti Autosport race engineer Nathan O’Rourke says Kyle Kirkwood’s first tests with the team compare favorably with those of Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden after they graduated to IndyCar.

Following Newgarden’s clinching of the 2011 Indy Lights championship, he moved to IndyCar with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, working with O’Rourke.

O’Rourke was then with Harding Steinbrenner Racing – a satellite Andretti Autosport operation – when Colton Herta made his IndyCar debut at the end of 2018, after his second consecutive year of finishing runner-up in Lights. O’Rourke has served as Herta’s race engineer ever since, and has therefore contributed to the 21-year-old already accumulating six wins and seven pole positions.

Now O’Rourke says he sees similar magic in Andretti Autosport’s 2021 Indy Lights champion Kirkwood, who completed his second test with the squad on Monday.

“They’re super-similar,” said O’Rourke who has been overseeing Kirkwood – currently without a confirmed ride for 2022 – while colleague Ray Gosselin runs Devlin DeFrancesco, who is penciled in as James Hinchcliffe’s replacement in the #29 car. “When Colton did his first run, I thought the same thing as when Josef did his first run, and then when Kyle did his first run, I thought the same thing as when Colton did his first run.

“You can tell right away when a guy is good. He gets up to speed right away, he doesn’t need lots of extra laps to put in his ideal laptime. I think we saw that from Kyle in Lights, right? Whatever time he did, that was probably as fast as that car could go on that day.

“That’s how he was at Sebring a couple of weeks ago in his first IndyCar test, and that’s how he was at Barber on Monday. We’re super-impressed with Kyle and we really appreciate his help.

“These last two tests we’ve really learned a lot and he’s already giving us stuff that will make us better when we come back.”

Although Kirkwood, who took the Lights championship with 10 wins this year, actually finished the Barber Motorsports Park driver evaluation test two-tenths behind DeFrancesco, O’Rourke said there was a good reason for that.

“Kyle’s time doesn’t show how good he was, because he dropped a wheel and flat-spotted a tire on his third set which put us behind the eight-ball for the rest of the day,” he said. “So we didn’t end up with the fastest one-lap setup at the end of the test and that’s why he wasn’t able to go after a big lap.

“But up to that point he was in lockstep with everyone else in terms of lap-time progression. Honestly I’d say that again, it was a good day for both of our drivers.

“The Sebring test a couple of weeks back was a case of running Kyle and Devlin for as many laps as possible to get them used to an IndyCar. For the Barber test, we wanted to gauge what they provided in terms of feedback, and evaluate some bigger setup concepts and how they responded to them.

“They both gave us really good information – good enough that it will help make us better when we come back next April.

“Kyle doesn’t need to set a super-quick time for us to know he’s a really, really good driver. Obviously we wanted to end up faster but we know exactly why we didn’t.”

O’Rourke will oversee the Andretti Autosport-Honda in which Kirkwood (among others) will turn laps on Friday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

shares
comments
Malukas on first IndyCar test: “I wasn’t expecting it to be so good!”
Previous article

Malukas on first IndyCar test: “I wasn’t expecting it to be so good!”

Next article

Kirkwood now available to any team as he seeks fulltime ride

Kirkwood now available to any team as he seeks fulltime ride
Load comments
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and series sophomore Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

IndyCar
Nov 22, 2021
How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar Prime

How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar

Marcus Ericsson enjoyed a breakout year in the IndyCar Series in 2021, winning twice and finishing sixth in points with Chip Ganassi Racing. How did he finally unlock the potential that was masked by five years of toil in Formula 1 with Caterham and Sauber/Alfa Romeo?

IndyCar
Nov 16, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Prime

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Jack Harvey’s move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate, but their combined strength could prove golden, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 15, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Prime

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong résumé and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021