TJ Speed Motorsports rookie Kyffin Simpson endured a challenging weekend in St. Petersburg, FL at the opening round of the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, scoring a 12th place finish in Sunday’s opening race after an unscheduled pit-stop and late race mechanical issues.
Earlier in the week, Kyffin kicked off his season in style by appearing at City Hall for the annual Firestone GP flag raising event, hosted by St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch alongside NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Graham Rahal and Callum Ilott, and fellow Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver Ernie Francis Jr.
The young Caymanian then attended the annual Green Flag VIP Media Lunch hosted by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at the The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, mixing it with city councillors, special guests and other NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers such as Takuma Sato, Kyle Kirkwood and Tatiana Calderón.
With Thursday’s media activities complete, the youngest driver of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field impressed race fans and fellow drivers alike with competitive lap times across official Practice and Qualifying. The #21 car regularly featured in the top five runners and qualified 7th for the race despite Simpson admitting he didn’t quite hook up the best lap possible.
Sunday’s 45-lap race would require both precision and endurance as the mid-80’s temperatures kept Kyffin and his fellow competitors working hard behind the wheel for almost an hour. The #21 took the rolling start on the inside lane, and as the green flag fell, raced down to Turn 1 alongside Danial Frost and Manuel Sulaiman.
Unfortunately for Kyffin, the four-wide shuffle meant he had to back out and concede two places, settling into 9th on the road for the first stint of the race. The first caution period granted Kyffin 8th place as race leader McElrea crashed out, and after a short clean-up period the fight resumed. Kyffin was overtaken by Jacob Abel into Turn 1 and sought to regain the place immediately at Turn 4. Unfortunately, the late inside move caused contact and a front-left puncture for the #21, effectively ending his race with a stop to replace the tire.
Re-joining 45 seconds behind the race leaders, Kyffin brought the car home and powered through some late-race mechanical troubles to score his first finish of the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season.
Kyffin, driver of the #21 Invest Cayman / Visit Cayman Islands machine said:
“It was a tough race. We didn’t have a great start and then had a rough restart as well, catching a flat tire from an incident at Turn 4. I was still running on the lead lap for a while but I made too many errors and had to let the leaders go.”
“It’s frustrating because we were still pretty fast. We’ve had the pace to fight in the Top 5 all weekend, but we need to work on being at the front to use that speed.”
“Yeah, a very tough weekend overall. We need to regroup and do better at Barber.”
Thankfully, Kyffin doesn’t have too long to wait before getting behind the wheel again. The 17-year-old returns to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup with Gradient racing, competing in the illustrious Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring event on the fan-favourite ‘Super Sebring’ weekend shared with the World Endurance Championship.
Kyffin is supported by InvestCayman, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products, GoPro action cameras, Spy sunglasses and Kokoro Media.