Juncos Racing’s latest driver signing Kyffin Simpson impressed in his Indy Pro 2000 debut at Barber Motorsport Park last weekend, overcoming hard luck in qualifying and unfortunate racing incidents to showcase front-running speed in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama’s support races.
After taking part in the official Road to Indy ‘Spring Training’ test earlier in April, three-time FR Americas race winner Kyffin emerged as one of the fastest of the 17-car field at Barber despite his relative inexperience. The #21 car went on to place P3, P8 and P10 in the Barber weekend’s Thursday practice sessions.
Friday brought two official qualifying sessions, ‘Q1’ and ‘Q2’, to set the grid for Saturday and Sunday’s two 45-minute races. In Q1, Kyffin showed promise in the opening laps with a best time of 1:16.663s, but his rivals would go on to improve their times in the latter stages to relegate the Bajan driver to 8th overall.
Tyre strategy played a key role in deciding the Indy Pro grid, with Juncos opting for one new set in Q1 versus most other teams using two sets early. With a second set in hand for Q2, Kyffin looked certain to log a much more competitive time in Friday afternoon’s Q2 session. Unfortunately, Q2 would bring the first instance of bad luck for Simpson as the session was curtailed early due to a red flag.
Reflecting on Friday’s Q1 and Q2 qualifying runs, Kyffin said:
“The weekend started pretty good! We were pretty quick in practice and excited for qualifying. However, in Q1 we didn’t quite have enough to be where we deserved to be, ending up 8th overall. Q2 was more frustrating; we were on a great lap but the red flag came out right before I crossed the line so we didn’t get the lap in. This track’s pretty hard to pass on so to be honest, it wasn’t looking to good [starting] from there.”
Kyffin lined up 8th on the grid for Saturday’s Race 1. The #21 car began the race well through the long left-right complex of Turns 1 and 2, before settling in amongst the pack on the fringes of the top-10. As the pack concertinaed in the downhill Turns 7-8 chicane, several cars collided and Kyffin’s rear was caught by the driver behind, sending the #21 into the car in front.
The resulting contact damaged Kyffin’s front wing, and after a quick stop for repairs Simpson emerged at the rear of the field. Despite this setback, Kyffin charged on to log the second-fastest lap of the race, 0.03s faster than eventual winner Braden Eves, and 11th overall as the chequered flag fell.
Sunday brought Race 2, with Kyffin once again lined up on the fourth row for the rolling race start. After a clean getaway, Kyffin battled for a top-10 position in the opening laps before unavoidable contact at Turn 16 damaged his front wing. Despite the unplanned wing change and further damage, Kyffin scored the second-fastest time of the race on his way to 17th, yet again demonstrating his pace at the wheel of Indy Pro machinery.
Looking back at the weekend’s challenging races, Kyffin said:
“In Race 1, there was an unavoidable collision at Turn 8 which knocked my front wing off, so I had to come in the pits and get a new one. After that I was just pushing as hard as I could to get fastest lap or salvage any extra points. Race 2 was a similar story, unfortunately. I had a small incident at Turn 16 which meant another nose change, then I tried to get the fastest lap after re-joining but the damage on the front left impacted our pace. Still, I really enjoyed my first Indy Pro 2000 weekend. I want to thank Juncos Racing for all their hard work, getting us back out there to fight in the races despite the issues we faced. We’ve got a really fast car and I can’t wait to repay their efforts with a good result next time out.”
Juncos Racing Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said:
“After an off-season full of changes to our crew and our new driver line up I am very pleased with the strong pace we showed at Barber this past week. Everyone performed amazingly. The drivers have developed great chemistry with the team and I know we will be back stronger at St. Pete. This is a long championship, so we will continue to stay focused towards our goals. I want to thank everyone for their hard work and for all of the amazing support we have received from our fans.”
Returning to the track this coming weekend for Rounds 3 & 4 of the Indy Pro 2000 series at St. Petersburg, Kyffin hopes to build on the experience gained at Barber Motorsport Park.
Kyffin is supported by Simpson Race Products, GoPro action cameras, Spy sunglasses, DART, BODDENS and Kokoro Performance driver coaching services.