The Road To Indy/Cooper Tires/Contractors Club sponsored No. 28 IL-15 from the Andretti Autosport stable on track at The Raceway On Belle Isle Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Before we get started with our Indy Lights qualifying report, we need to send a shout-out to the HMD Motorsports crew. They affixed a new 2.0L turbocharged AER power plant, new gearbox, new floor, and new front and rear corners on the left side of his No. 79 IL-15 and got the points leader, David Malukas, on the track for qualifying.

For the second straight Race #1 on a street circuit, Kyle Kirkwood will have an advantage on the field after scoring the pole with a lap of 83.2582 seconds.

“This is a fun track, it’s everything I expected it to be – it’s just a lot hotter than I expected it to be,” said Kirkwood. “This car doesn’t absorb the bumps as well as an Indy car or a GTD car does, so it’s tough out there, very physical. That’s one of the track’s main characteristics. We started off with a bit of an edge since we’re able to apply some of the Andretti Indy car setup information because the two cars are fairly similar. But it seems as though everyone else has figured it out because Linus really kept me on my toes. It was the same thing that happened this morning in trading times back and forth with Alex Peroni. He’s unreal on street courses. He did well in Europe and he’s doing well over here. But we’ve learned the track quickly, I’ve got a good car and I’m driving well, so happy to get another pole for the team. Tomorrow, my goal will be to keep our pace, race well, make no mistakes and, of course, lead that first corner.”

That was 0.1716 seconds ahead of Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports) and 0.2781 seconds ahead of Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing), the only two drivers that were within shouting distance of the Andretti Autosport rookie pole-sitter.

The pole is the 13th in Kirkwood’s Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career and his 37th if you include all North American Junior Open Wheel series.

The pole win is the first for Andretti Autosport at the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit, but the Indianapolis, Ind. forerunners – Team Green – did win the pole with Jonny Kane in 2000. It’s the 61st Indy Lights pole for the team.

Rounding out the top five were Carlin rookie Alex Peroni and, with the story of the session, David Malukas.

At the halfway point of the session, Malukas was sitting in last on the timing screens but improved steadily as he gained experience on the track and confidence to go quick. With ten minutes remaining, the 19-year-old was 12th, and with five minutes remaining, he had moved to 10th. Finally, on his 13th lap of the half-hour session, he turned a lap at 84.0287 seconds, good enough to start on the inside of the third row.

The half-hour qualifying got underway at 2:30 pm. The ambient temperature was 83F, 9F warmer than the Friday morning practice. The track temperature was 114F, which was 28F over the track temperature at the start of this morning’s practice.

The qualifying session got off to a rough start for reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion Sting Ray Robb. The Juncos Racing rookie got all four wheels over the line at the pit exit and was penalized a drive-thru for an improper pit exit.

Lundqvist, Peroni, and Kirkwood all held the provisional pole in the first half of the qualifying session. At the halfway point of the session, several drivers were on pit road making adjustments and affixing fresh Cooper Tires.

Kirkwood held the provisional pole, turning a lap at 83.8099 seconds. That was four-tenths of a second quicker than the 22-year-old’s session leading lap from the morning practice.

The remainder of the top five after 15 minutes qualifying was DeFrancesco, Peroni, Sowery, and Lundqvist.

The first driver to go quicker on new tires, with just over ten minutes remaining, was Benjamin Pedersen (HMD Motorsports w/Global Racing Group).

The timing screen started to light up green as drivers began to get their Cooper Tires up to the optimal operating temperature.

With four minutes to go, Lundqvist was the first driver to get within a tenth-of-a-second of Kirkwood, but Kirkwood was able to lower the provisional pole time on his next lap.

With just over two minutes remaining, Lundqvist and Sowery both went quicker than Kirkwood. As a result, the Swede’s time on the provisional pole was short-lived. On his second last and 16th lap of the session, Kirkwood went back to the top.

Danial Frost, who was pushing hard on his final lap, made contact with the barriers in Turn 7. Race control announced that he was out of the car. We’ll update you when we get a chance to check in with the team.

Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Detroit Presented By Cooper Tires qualifying results (unofficial)

1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:23.2582 ——
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:23.4298 0.1716
3 51 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 1:23.5363 0.2781
4 5 Alex Peroni Carlin 1:23.8502 0.5920
5 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:24.0287 0.7705
6 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:24.0650 0.8068
7 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group wHMD Motorsports 1:24.1385 0.8803
8 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:24.2950 1.0368
9 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:24.3631 1.1049
10 59 Nikita Lastochkin HMD Motorsports 1:24.3918 1.1336
11 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:24.4833 1.2251
12 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing 1:25.1555 1.8973
13 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:25.2760 2.0178

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires drivers are back on track tomorrow at 9:30 am, and the first race is set for 12:10 pm.

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