Kyle Kirkwood chats with team owner Michael Andretti after the lone Indy Lights practice session of the 2020 season (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

With the 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season fast approaching, Kyle Kirkwood, who will pilot the No. 28 Dallara for Andretti Autosport, is the first official driver announcement on the top rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

After winning the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 championship, Kirkwood was set to join Andretti Autosport for the 2020 season, but those plans were put on hold when Indy Lights was put on hiatus until 2021.

“I am so incredibly excited to get this rolling again in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport,” said Kyle Kirkwood. “2020 was an unfortunate year for Indy Lights taking a season hiatus, but it has given us as a team plenty of time to focus towards having a perfect year in 2021. Our lineup is very strong this year and fortunately, we are pretty close friends. Our readiness and preparation is incredible and I cannot wait to kick off the 2021 season in a few short months.”

Kirkwood led Indy Lights pre-season before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, bringing the season to an abrupt and unexpected halt.

Kyle Kirkwood behind the wheel of the Andretti Autosport No. 28 Dallara during spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 2020. The Jupiter, Fla. native led the spring test. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

However, he was able to keep busy in 2020, making starts in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series and the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Kirkwood won once, stood on the podium twice, and had the quickest lap of the race in all four races of IMSA Prototype Challenge action with Forty7 Motorsports. Kirkwood joined the AIM Vasser Sullivan squad for the final pair of endurance races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship behind the wheel of a Lexus RC F GT3.

The 22-year-old pilot’s incredible rise up the American junior formula career ranks began with a partial season of F1600 Championship Series action in 2015. Since then, Kirkwood has won 47 races and four championships, including the 2017 F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the 2018 F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda.

In two years of Road To Indy action, Kirkwood has two championships, 21 wins, ten poles, and has stood on the podium in 80% of his 30 USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 starts.

If the Jupiter, Fla. wins the Indy Lights championship, he would be the first driver to win the scholarship on all three rungs on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

What better team to accomplish that feat than Andretti Autosport? The team has won four driver’s championships, including Pato O’Ward in 2018 and Oliver Askew in 2019.

The Indianapolis, Ind.-based team is expected to enter the 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season with a four-car effort, and more announcements will be forthcoming.