Kyle Kirkwood, former Ligier JS F4 and JS F3 champion in the United States, scores his first victory in the IndyCar Series!
On 16th April, Kyle Kirkwood scored his first victory in the NTT IndyCar Series in the Acura Grand Prix on the Long Beach circuit. A marvelous reward for the American driver who cut his teeth at the wheel of F4s and F3s built by the French constructor, Ligier Automotive, winning the F4 U.S. Championship in 2017 and the title in the FR Americas Series the following year.
“It almost feels like through my entire open-wheel ladder series career, I always wanted more. I'd win a bunch of races, and I'd be like, ‘OK, I need to get to the next one, keep progressing.' Today was the first time I was able to actually soak it in and acknowledge I've done something incredible,” explained Kirwood who was still very emotional about his first victory in IndyCar in the Long Beach Grand Prix.
A lookback at the career of this rising star in American motor sport.
From the Ligier JS F4 to the Ligier JS F3 - a double title for the prodigy!
Kirkwood began his career in the US single-seater pyramid in the F4 US Championship. He finished third in the championship at the wheel of the #8 Ligier JS F4 (then known as the Crawford F4) run by Primus Racing.
The following year he came back and went on to win the F4 US Championship title at the wheel of the #8 car run by Cape Motorsports. He clinched the title before the end of the championship and scored his ninth victory in the final round at the COTA F1 Grand Prix weekend. “It's a surreal feeling being on the top step of the F1 podium,” Kirkwood said. “Taking that parade lap with thousands of fans cheering, confirms even more, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”.
Boosted by his first title, the young prodigy continued learning the ropes in single-seaters. He was one of the first drivers to officially follow the F4/F3 ladder in the United States. Behind the wheel of the #8 Ligier JS F3 the young American crushed his rivals winning the FR Americas title thanks to his 15 victories in the 17 races that were held.
Road to Indy – Three new titles
The same year he won the USF2000 series with 12 victories in the 14 races on the calendar.
Before continuing his career in single-seaters, Kirkwood with the help of Ligier Automotive had a one-off outing in a Ligier JS P3 sports prototype, the first-generation LMP3s built by the French constructor and homologated at the time for the ACO and IMSA championships. And the result? Yet another victory for the American, who crossed the finishing line in the 4-hour race in the Michelin IMSA Sportscar Endurance race at Sebring in first place at the wheel of the ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3 with more than 2,278 seconds in hand over the second-placed driver.
He then continued his rise in the IndyCar Series by competing in the USF Pro 2000 Championship in 2019 adding another title to his tally!
Then followed a lost year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, Kirkwood entered for the Indy NXT Series (formerly Indy Lights) and sealed another title, his fifth in single-seaters! After being the first driver to win the F4 U.S. Championship then the FR Americas the following year, he became the first driver to win all the Road to Indy Championships.
After spending a year in the IndyCar Series as a rookie with AJ Foyt Racing, he signed for Andretti Autosport for his second season. And success wasn't long in coming. On 16th April Kirkwood bagged his first pole position and scored his maiden victory in the third round on the Long Beach circuit.
One thing's certain, Kirkwood will continue to make sparks fly!
Photo credit: DPPI Images / Florent Gooden