Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires rookie Kyffin Simpson transformed a disappointing qualifying result into a season-best points haul, charging home to 5th and 7th in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear double-header. The Cayman Islands native arrived at Belle Isle Park with no prior experience of its tricky bumps, fast turns, and tight walls – but wasted no time getting up to speed.
In Friday’s single practice session, Simpson logged 27 laps to place 9th overall with a time of 1:23.9909, ahead of Detroit returnees Bogle, Serravalle, and fellow rookies Francis Jr. and Roe. Honing the #21’s setup, TJ Speed Motorsports made changes ahead of a two-part qualifying session on Saturday morning, but these would prove to be tricky to manage as the track temperature dropped significantly from the previous day.
Red flag periods interrupted the two 15-minute qualification periods, but despite these challenges, Kyffin qualified 12th and 10th of 14 runners for the weekend’s two races.
Speaking after the session, Kyffin said:
“Not great. I’m disappointed with where we’re at right now. The changes we made since yesterday haven’t translated into pace and we got a bit unlucky with the timing of the red flag too. Still, it’s not impossible to pass around here and I’m going to work hard with the team to find something for tomorrow.”
Saturday afternoon’s Race 1 proved to be the most action-packed session all weekend, with Simpson navigating three caution periods, debris from incidents and degrading Cooper Tires to score a decisive 5th place finish. After a clean getaway from 12th, Kyffin carved through the field as others faltered around him. The 17-year-old’s pace increased with each lap and gave the Detroit GP fans a thrilling last lap battle to enjoy as he challenged Bogle ahead for 4th.
Despite not grabbing 4th at the line, Kyffin was enthusiastic about equalling his best result of the year so far:
“That was fun, honestly! There were quite a few safety cars and incidents happening around me, but I just focused on being consistent, chasing down the next guy ahead. The car was better in the race; I just had a lot more confidence, so the lap time came naturally. We were able to make moves when it mattered.”
“I was catching Bogle before the last safety car period. Maybe there was a small chance to get him in the final laps, but I don’t think I left anything on the table. He covered the main overtaking spots quite well and both of us were using push-to-pass.”
Saturday’s clear skies were replaced with dark clouds and cooler temperatures for Sunday’s Race 2, ahead of the main NTT INDYCAR SERIES event. Starting on the 5th row, Kyffin made quick work of Francis Jr. and Serravalle to place 8th early in the 30-lap race. Much like Race 1, it wasn’t long before a caution period bunched the field once again, and Simpson took advantage of the condensed field to chase after the charging HMD machine of Pederson ahead at the restart.
By two-thirds distance – and a second caution – Simpson had progressed to 7th place as other drivers faltered on Belle Isle’s bumpy surface. The leading group of cars gapped the field at the restart, and Simpson pressured Pederson and Frost ahead in an intense battle for 5th place that would ultimately remain unchanged as the chequered flag flew.
Looking back on a challenging Race 2, Kyffin said:
That race was pretty good. Starting so far back wasn’t easy but safety cars helped us out. It was just so hard to make a move at the end there – us three were close and I felt the aero wash quite a bit. I think our pace in the second half there was great. It shows we have the potential to fight at the front.”
“Big thanks to the team, Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda, our sponsors, and my family for the support this weekend. It’s been tough but we came through with a good points haul. I’m really excited for Road America. It’s one of my favourite tracks and I’ve had some success there in FR Americas and Indy Pro 2000.”
Kyffin now travels to Road America for Round 7 of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series, June 10-12th. Fans can follow live coverage on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES website and mobile apps, and can support Kyffin on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Kyffin is supported by Ridgeline Lubricants, InvestCayman, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products, GoPro action cameras, Spy sunglasses and Kokoro Media.