Kyle Kirkwood’s incredible run of results that started two months ago at Road America continued as the middle rung of the Road To Indy took on their second oval of the season. But, it wasn’t as easy as leading 50 of 55 laps would appear to be.
The Soul Red No. 28 from the RP Motorsport stable turned in a qualifying lap quick enough to start on the outside of the front row, but the team made an illegal adjustment in the qualifying line, and the reigning 2018 USF2000 champion started on the tail of the 12-car field.
Kirkwood took only five laps to grab the lead, and for much of the race, it appeared that the 20-year-old might head to Portland with the points lead.
“No. Nowhere near that,” explained Kirkwood to TSO after the race. “Honestly, if we had no cautions, I realistically thought a top-five would be a good finish because it’s not very easy to pass around here.
“Every situation I came across was incredible. I went to the outside and people got bottled-up on the inside and I was able to have a massive run to the next corner. I kept doing that and doing that, and it kept working and kept working. Fortunately, the top three or four got together when I was in fifth or sixth, and it created a massive run for me, and I got three or four cars going into Turn 3 and all of a sudden I was passing for the lead. I was passing for the lead, and I was like ‘how did I get here.’
“Everything that could have went right, did for us.”
Polesitter and points leader Lindh spent most of the race running in the fourth spot, but with 15 laps remaining decided it was time to go. The 18-year-old made up one spot with 15 laps remaining and made an aggressive final-lap pass to grab the second sport in the final two corners of the last lap.
After the race, Lindh told us that he didn’t have the speed to win, but was satisfied with his second-place finish.
“I want to win this championship,” said Lindh, who still has a six-point championship lead. “It’s going to end very soon, and we have to get every point we can right now.
The dozen Elite 2.0L engines were fired at 1:41 pm, and after two pace laps, the front row of Lindh and Enders brought the field to the green flag on the World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway front straight.
Outside front row starter Enders got a slower start allowing his DEForce Racing teammate de la Vara to move into second and put pressure on Lindh.
Lindh crossed the line first followed by de la Vera, Enders, Robb, Comeau, Frost, Petrov, Kirkwood, Thompson, Abel, Lastochkin and Finelli.
On Lap 2, the top three went down the front straight three-wide with de la Vara grabbing the lead. Kirkwood had already made up seven spots and was running fifth. Kirkwood made up one spot on each of the next two laps and completed his run from last to first on Lap 5.
Things settled in for the next few laps with Kirkwood leading de la Vera and Enders. By Lap 10 Enders was on his teammate’s gearbox with the pair going side-by-side for Lap 13 and Lap 14 before de la Vara was able to take control of the second spot.
Lap 18 was a busy one. Enders was finally able to get past de la Vara, and Lindh was able to grab back the fourth spot from Comeau.
Two laps later, Enders turned the quickest lap of the race to that point, taking off after Kirkwood upfront. On lap 20, the lead was 1.9 seconds. Texan Enders started to methodically eat into Kirkwood’s lead, dropping the gap to 1.3 seconds with 30 laps remaining.
Behind the front pair, de la Vara was facing immense pressure from Lindh and Comeau, with Frost right there. On lap 27, Frost was able to move into the top five, getting past Comeau.
With 25 laps remaining, Kirkwood’s lead was down to 0.7 seconds. The front two were over six seconds ahead of the train forming behind de la Vara.
On lap 32, Enders washed wide in Turn 3 and Turn 4, and the gap grew to 1.1 seconds when they crossed the line to start lap 33.
With 18 to go, Lindh and Frost went side-by-side through Turn 1 and 2. The championship leader was able to hold onto the spot as the Exclusive Autosport driver dropped in behind the Juncos Racing rookie.
With 15-laps remaining Lindh went to the outside of de la Vara in Turn 1 and the Swedish driver was the only one to exit Turn 2. de la Vara’s UAG / I.E.P. / MOTUL / JUMEX / Oil Depot sponsored No. 6 appeared to be carrying too much speed and spun 90 degrees making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in the middle of the two turns at the south end of the track.
The running order under yellow was Kirkwood, Enders, Lindh, Frost, Comeau, Robb, Petrov, Thompson, Lastochkin, Finelli, de la Verra and Abel. 28 7 10 68 3 2 5 8 90 83 6 51
Kirkwood got a good jump on Enders when the green flag came back out with seven laps remaining. Lindh immediately started to put pressure on Enders, looking to get by the DEForce Racing driver in Turn 3 on the first two laps under green. Enders was able to hold him off, but that allowed Kirkwood to build a comfortable lead upfront.
With four laps remaining, Kirkwood’s lead was 0.7 seconds. With two laps left, the lead had dropped to 0.5 seconds.
But, Lindh was not done trying to grab as many points as possible. The driver of the Chicago Pneumatic / PWR Junior Team / SKF sponsored No. 10 got a great run through Turn 1 and Turn 2, carrying enough momentum to go two-by-two with Enders in Turn 3 and 4 with Lindh beating Enders to the start/finish line by a slim 0.09-second margin.
Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis Race Results
|1||28||Kyle Kirkwood||RP Motorsport Racing||55 laps|
|2||10||Rasmus Lindh||Juncos Racing||0.8679|
|3||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||0.9601|
|4||68||Danial Frost||Exclusive Autosport||3.4598|
|5||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||4.0903|
|6||8||Parker Thompson||Abel Motorsports||4.5870|
|7||5||Artem Petrov||RP Motorsport Racing||6.6119|
|8||90||Nikita Lastochkin||Exclusive Autosport||7.8187|
|9||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsport||8.7151|
|10||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||– 1 LAPS|
|11||6||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||-16 LAPS|
|12||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||-41 LAP|