By Steve Wittich
After 18 races, 623 laps, and 1314.215-miles of back and forth Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires action, the championship and the $1,289,425 scholarship that goes to the winner comes down to a pair of races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood and HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas, the two combatants for the coveted championship and guaranteed NTT INDYCAR SERIES ride that comes with it, have been waging a season-long battle for the ages.
Malukas led the way with five races to go, but a late surge and three-race winning streak leave Kirkwood with a 15-point lead with the final two races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course remaining.
Indy Lights championship tale-of-the-tape
|KYLE KIRKWOOD||DAVID MALUKAS|
|Jupiter, Florida||Hometown||Chicago, Illinois|
|99.4%||% Laps Completed||95.8%|
|2.2||Fastest Lap Avg.||3.3|
Kirkwood’s nine wins are one win away from Greg Moore’s season record. The popular Canadian won ten times during his 1995 Indy Lights championship season.
Kyle Kirkwood has had just a “touch” of success at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In 19 race starts across the F4 United States Championship, Formula Regional Americas Championship, USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, and Indy Lights championships, his superlatives read as follows:
- 12 wins
- 11 wins in a row dating back to 2017
- wins in all seven Road To Indy starts
- ten pole starts
- 17 podiums
- led at least a lap in 15 races
- only one DNF
The just-turned 20-year-old Malukas has not quite had the same success as his rival on the undulating central Ohio road course, but he’s also been no slouch in his ten starts.
Malukas is still looking for his first win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Still, he does have five podiums and nine top-six finishes across his starts in USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, Indy Lights, and Formula Regional Americas. His lone finish outside the top ten came when a mechanical issue thwarted a sure win after a pole win in Indy Pro 2000.
With the championship so close, the drivers hold most of their future in their own hands, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love some help from their teammates.
For points leader Kirkwood, that help will most likely come from Danial Frost. The Singaporean finished twice and ahead of Malukas in both races in July, and he has six top-five finishes across a dozen American open-wheel starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Malukas could use some help from his teammate Linus Lundqvist, who finished fourth in both Indy Lights races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July but does have a pair of wins from the pole in the Formula Regional Americas Championship.
Below the championship twosome, Global Racing Group w/HMD rookie Linus Lundqvist, the only other driver to win an Indy Lights race this season, has locked down third place in the championship. With that, the Swede has earned himself an important NTT INDYCAR SERIES test.
Behind the top three, only 37 points separate Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport) in the battle for fourth.
Pedersen, a Dane who calls Washington State, was ninth in the points standings when the series left the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course three months ago, but an impressive run of a half-dozen races with three podiums and six top-five finishes has moved the 22-year-old into fourth place, 18 points ahead of the Frost, whose stellar Mid-Ohio results we’ve already mentioned.
Only 10 points behind his teammate Frost is Canadian DeFrancesco, who stood on two Indy Pro 2000 podiums at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last year.
2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points standings
|1||Kyle Kirkwood – r||Andretti Autosport||488|
|2||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||473||-15|
|3||Linus Lundqvist – r||Global Racing Group w/HMD||403||-85|
|4||Benjamin Pedersen – r||Global Racing Group w/HMD||322||-166|
|5||Danial Frost – r||Andretti Autosport||304||-184|
|6||Devlin DeFrancesco – r||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||294||-194|
|7||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||285||-203|
|8||Toby Sowery||Juncos Racing||236||-252|
|9||Alex Peroni – r||Carlin||228||-260|
|10||Sting Ray Robb – r||Juncos Hollinger Racing||218||-270|
|11||Christian Bogle – r||Carlin||207||-281|
|12||Antonio Serravalle – r||Pserra Racing||157||-331|
|13||Nikita Lastochkin – r||HMD Motorsports||123||-365|
|14||Rasmus Lindh – r||Juncos Hollinger Racing||57||-431|
|15||Manuel Sulaiman – r||HMD Motorsports||51||-437|
Hyperco Rookie Of The Year
Championship leader Kyle Kirkwood has this one locked up, and it’s not even close.
2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires rookie standings
|1||Kyle Kirkwood – r||488|
|2||Linus Lundqvist – r||403||-85|
|3||Benjamin Pedersen – r||322||-166|
|4||Danial Frost – r||304||-184|
|5||Devlin DeFrancesco – r||294||-194|
|6||Alex Peroni – r||228||-260|
|7||Sting Ray Robb – r||218||-270|
|8||Christian Bogle – r||207||-281|
|9||Antonio Serravalle – r||157||-331|
|10||Nikita Lastochkin – r||123||-365|
|11||Rasmus Lindh – r||57||-431|
|12||Manuel Sulaiman – r||51||-437|
Team Bragging Rights
Team points are distributed as follows to a teams top two finishers in each race – 1st is 22 points, 2nd is 18 points, 3rd is 15 points, 4th is 12 points, 5th is 10 points, 6th is 8 points, 7th is 6 points, 8th is 4 points, 9th is 2 points, and 10th+ is 1 point.
Between them, HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group (70 starts) and Andretti Autosport/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport (72) have 142 starts in 2021 and only have 39 points separating them with eight starts each remaining.
The pair of four-car powerhouse squads each have nine wins and nine poles, but where HMD/GRG stands out is their 29 to 21 advantage in podiums.
However, the last time the top rung of the RTI visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July, Andretti Autosport/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport outscored HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group by an 80 to 54 margin, making the final doubleheader that much more interesting.
2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires team championship standings
|3||Juncos Hollinger Racing||286||-311|
|5||Pserra Racing/AS Promotions||102||-495|
The Indy Lights team championship debuted in 2014. If Andretti Autosport/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport were to pull off the improbable comeback, it would be the team’s third team championship and third in a row.
If HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group holds one, it will be their first team title in only their second year of competition.
Indy Lights team champions
|2017||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2015||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2014||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
Double the bubbly
Only ten of the previous 34 Indy Lights champions has won a race in the final weekend of the championship.
The first was Fabrizio Barbazza, the inaugural champ, who won one of his five races of 1986 on the Tamiami Park street course in Miami, Fla., on the way to the title.
The last was Pato O’Ward, who won both races on the way to his 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires title at the Portland International Raceway.
Indy Lights champions that won the finale
|2002||A. J. Foyt IV|
Previously at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
- Part of the VP Racing Fuels Championship Weekend Presented By Cooper Tires, the two races will be the 32nd and 33rd Indy Lights races held at the central Ohio natural terrain road course.
- A dozen drivers are on the entry list, with Antonio Serravalle and Pserra Racing/AS Promotions returning to action after sitting out the trip to the west coast.
- Indy Lights graduates have won seventeen of the last 22 Indy car races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Indy Lights races have been won by 23 different drivers representing 14 unique teams.
Indy Lights winners at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
|2021 Race #2||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport|
|2021 Race #1||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport|
|2019 Race #2||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport|
|2019 Race #1||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport|
|2018 Race #2||Patricio O’Ward||Andretti Autosport|
|2018 Race #1||Patricio O’Ward||Andretti Autosport|
|2017 Race #2||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport|
|2017 Race #1||Santi Urrutia||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2016 Race #2||Santi Urrutia||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2016 Race #1||Santi Urrutia||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2015 Race #2||Sean Rayhall||8Star Motorsports|
|2015 Race #1||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2014 Race #1||Jack Harvey||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2014 Race #2||Jack Harvey||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2013||Gabby Chaves||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2010||Martin Plowman||Andretti Autosport|
|2009||James Davison||Vision Racing|
|2008 Race #2||James Davison||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2008 Race #1||Rafa Matos||Andretti Autosport|
|2007||Richard Antinucci||Cheever Racing|
|2001||Townsend Bell||Dorricott Racing|
|2000||Townsend Bell||Dorricott Racing|
|1994||Andre Ribeiro||Tasman Motorsports|
|1993||Bryan Herta||Tasman Motorsports|
|1992||Robbie Groff||Groff Motorsports|
|1991||Brian Till||Cole Performance|
|1990||Paul Tracy||Landford Racing|
|1989||P.J. Jones||PIG Enterprise Racing|
|1988||Jon Beekhuis||PIG Enterprise Racing|
|1987||Juan Manuel Fangio II||TeamKar International|
- Andretti Autosport has won seven straight races going back to 2017 and nine of 31 previous races.
- Andretti Autosport has nine poles, 25 podiums, and 308 laps led, leading all teams.
- The average starting spot of the winner is 1.8 – the pole-sitter has won 21 of 31 67.7% of races.
- The average finishing spot of the pole sitter is 3.6, and they have failed to finish only twice.
- The closest Indy Lights finish occurred in 1991 when Brian Till beat Mark Smith to the checkered flag by 0.215 seconds.
- Eleven of the 31 Indy Lights races held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course have gone caution-free.
- Race #2 in 2008, a wet affair, had five cautions for ten laps, the most for both categories for any Indy Lights race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- That same water-logged race in 2008 had ten drivers fail to finish the 20-lap race, the most DNFs in any Indy Lights race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- Sticking with that chaotic race won by James Davison, it’s the only Indy Lights race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to finish under the yellow flag.
- That was also the race that Jonny Reid gave away when he pulled into the pits instead of taking the checkered flag.
Indy Lights weekend schedule
Friday, October 1
- 3pm – 3:45pm – Indy Lights Practice #1
Saturday, October 2
- 9:25am – 10:05am – Indy Lights Qualifying #1
- 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:
- download the Road To Indy TV app from the Apple App Store or on Google Play to get video, audio, timing & scoring, news from TSO Ladder and much more – you can also get Road To Indy TV via Apple TV, Amazon Video, Roku or Microsoft Xbox One
- live timing – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Pro Mazda – USF2000 – IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter – TSO Ladder – Team Cooper Tire – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Indy Pro 2000 – USF2000
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #RoadToIndy hashtags