Kyle Kirkwood, pole sitter for VP Racing Lubricants Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Race #1 navigates The Keyhole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club sponsored No. 28 Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

The Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club Dallara sponsored No. 28 of Kyle Kirkwood will start from the pole for the seventh time in 2021. Kirkwood now has 18 career Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires poles.

Kirkwood earns the valuable bonus point for pole and takes a 16-point lead into this afternoon’s race.

Slotting in beside the Andretti Autosport rookie is his championship rival, HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas. It will be the seventh time the twosome have started on the front row together this year.

Starting on the second row are Kirkwood’s Andretti Autosport teammates Danial Frost and Robert Megennis.

The one dozen IL-15s taking part in the VP Racing Fuels Championship Weekend Presented by Cooper Tires finale got the green flag for the penultimate qualifying session of the season at 9:25 am. The ambient temperature was still a cool 57F when the HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group squad led the cars onto the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course.

The red flag quickly came out as drivers were on their out laps after Carlin rookie Christian Bogle spun at the exit of Turn 9. The Pelican Energy sponsored No. 7 didn’t make contact but did get high-sided on the side of the track. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team pulled him back onto the racing surface, restarted his AER 2.0L turbocharged engine, and he was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

The green flag came back out with 32-minutes remaining, and the drivers quickly got back to work.

The early leader was Malukas, while Kirkwood sat on pit road preserving his limited Cooper Tire slicks.

Frost, a pole winner at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the last time the Indy Lights series visited central Ohio, held the provisional pole with 27-minutes remaining, and Kirkwood still sitting on pit road.

The Jupiter, Fla driver Kirkwood finally got on track with 25 of the 40 minutes remaining.

Over the next five minutes, Frost was joined by DeFrancesco, Megennis, Malukas, and Pedersen as provisional pole sitters.

Kirkwood took only five laps to take the provisional pole as the first driver to turn a sub-72 second lap. At the halfway point of qualifying, he was joined in the top five by Pedersen, Frost, DeFrancesco, and Megennis. The best the championship contender Malukas could do was seventh, almost a full second behind Kirkwood.

Before the halfway point of qualifying, drivers started to come to the pit road for fresh rubber and adjustments.

Kirkwood remained on track, lowering the provisional pole lap on his eighth lap of qualifying with a lap that was four-tenths of a second quicker than DeFrancesco. The 22-year-old came to pit lane, putting fresh Coopers on the No. 28.

The track remained reasonably quiet for ten minutes while teams made adjustments before sending their drivers back out on the track for one more run to knock Kirkwood from the pole.

The first two drivers to improve their lap times in the final five minutes were Andretti Autosport teammates. Frost and Megennis.

With just over four minutes remaining, Malukas jumped from seventh to the provisional pole with a lap of 71.5255 seconds on his 18th lap of the 40-minute session.

Only 60 seconds later, Kirkwood went almost three-tenths of a second quicker than his rival to return to the provisional pole with 150-seconds remaining.

With 90-seconds remaining, Sting Ray Robb set the third quickest lap of the session, but when the reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion got to Turn 1, he spun at the exit the fast left-hander, coming to a stop at driver’s left.

The red flag came out, ending the session and costing the Juncos Hollinger Racing rookie his quickest lap, dropping him to seventh on the grid for this afternoon’s race.

VP Racing Fuels Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying #1 results

1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:11.2100 ——
2 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:11.5255 -0.3155
3 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:11.6681 -0.4581
4 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:11.7619 -0.5519
5 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:11.8753 -0.6653
6 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:11.8919 -0.6819
7 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:11.9960 -0.786
8 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:12.2867 -1.0767
9 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:12.3260 -1.116
10 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:13.0950 -1.885
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:13.1319 -1.9219
12 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing 1:13.2607 -2.0507

The remainder of the Indy Lights weekend schedule is as follows

Saturday, October 2

  • 1pm – 1:50pm – Indy Lights Race #1

Saturday, October 3

  • 8:45am – 9:15am – Indy Lights Qualifying #2
  • noon – 12:50pm – Indy Lights Race #2

Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action: