Kirkwood Caps Fantastic Friday with Pole-Winning GTD Lap in Lexus

By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
DETROIT – Kyle Kirkwood doubled his pleasure and doubled his fun on Belle Isle Friday. Within an hour of posting the fastest time in opening practice for Sunday’s IndyCar race, the young Floridian steered his No. 17 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3 to the GT Daytona (GTD) Motul Pole Award for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event, the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic.
Kirkwood’s second career WeatherTech Championship pole came on his final lap of a tantalizing qualifying session. His time of 1 minute, 29.096 seconds (94.953 mph) edged hometown favorite Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 by 0.118 seconds in the 15-minute session that saw the top four qualifiers jammed within two-tenths of a second.
“Someone asked, ‘Have you ever been to the media center (for press conferences) twice in one day?’” Kirkwood said. “I don’t think I have. This is a first for me, especially within a 45-minute span. Today ranks pretty high up there in my career. I’ve definitely got a headache now from all the running around I’ve done, but it’s been a lot of fun. My passion is racing cars and I got to do a lot of it today.”
Kirkwood was quick to credit the Vasser Sullivan crew and Lexus for giving him the tools to do the job. But he readily conceded the extra track time that comes from running two cars this weekend was a factor in his performance.
“If they were very similar cars, it would be a lot tougher,” he explained. “But with two totally different cars – the IndyCar has a ton of downforce, a lot more power and is lighter; then the sports car is heavy, no downforce, different tires, ABS (anti-lock braking system), traction control – so there’s a lot of differences.”
Getting a read on the track conditions in IndyCar practice was also a definite plus when it came time to qualify the Lexus.
“The extra track time enabled me to think, ‘Oh, the wind is affecting one car this way, so I can expect it to happen in the next session with the other car,’” he said. “I got out of the IndyCar after the wind had really picked up and it got loose going into Turn 1, so I took that over to the Vasser Sullivan guys, they put some more rear wing into it and we went out and qualified on pole. So, so far, so good as far as balancing the two out.
“The Lexus is pretty strong on street courses. They’ve won a few times here and have had some almost wins a few other times, so it’s no secret they’re pretty strong around here, and I’m glad to keep that reputation up.”
Confirming the Lexus’ street-circuit chops, Frankie Montecalvo turned the fourth-fastest lap in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan entry (1:29.299), just behind Madison Snow in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 (1:29.286).
Aidan Read was fifth in the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX GT3 (1:29.544), some two tenths quicker than Robert Megennis in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Russell Ward was seventh in the No. 52 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, ensuring that six different makes will start in the top seven GTD spots on Saturday.
The 100-minute race airs live at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio
Adam Sinclair