Caymanian racer Kyffin Simpson finished 8th in the first ever Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix, Sunday August 7th on the streets of Nashville TN, overcoming unpredictable weather and a back row starting position to score another top-10 result.
The #21 Ridgeline Lubricants HMD Motorsports machine showed strongly in Friday’s Practice 1, with Kyffin running as high as P4 in the opening 15-lap stint. A minor mechanical issue cost Simpson a handful of laps in the second half of the session, but HMD Motorsports were quick to identify and rectify the issue. Despite this, Nashville newcomer Kyffin completed P1 10th overall, satisfied with the overall balance of the car.
In contrast to Friday’s clear weather, Saturday promised anything but. Practice 2 remained dry as the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires focused on preparing for the afternoon’s Qualifying session, along with conducting longer runs to hone car balance and circuit knowledge for Sunday’s 35-lap race. Continuing where he left off on Friday, Kyffin closed the gap to the leading cars and ran inside the top-10 all session long, before an unfortunate incident at the final turn brought out the red flag.
A small mistake comes with big consequences at a street circuit as unforgiving as Nashville. That’s all it took for the #21 to find the wall after braking fractionally too late. Thankfully, Kyffin was unharmed and undeterred by the incident, but it would be a race against time for HMD Motorsports to repair the car for Qualifying just a few hours later.
The team got straight to work, and as the call came for teams to tow cars to pit lane, the #21 was ready to go. Unfortunately, the reward for their efforts would have to wait as a sudden, violent thunderstorm swept across the Nissan stadium and Nashville city area. Due to the required safety protocols in place for lightning, Qualifying for Indy Lights was put on indefinite hold until the weather cleared.
Heavy rain, thunder and lightning remained in the area for several hours, delaying the following NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying session well into the late afternoon, along with all other track activity. Soon it became clear that Indy Lights weren’t going to qualify as planned, and the grid line-up would be drawn based on entrant points as per the series regulations.
The #21 car’s entrant points effectively reset at the preceding round with its’ switch to HMD Motorsports, meaning Simpson would line up 12th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Sunday morning brought clearer skies with it, albeit under 92-degree heat and high humidity – a tough combination for a recently-washed street circuit. As the green flag flew, Kyffin wasted no time in challenging teammate James Roe and Force Indy’s Ernie Francis Jr. for position in the opening laps. Before long, the #21 was up to 10th place and chasing Christian Bogle for 9th.With the pressure mounting, Bogle locked up into the ticky turn 9 braking area, gifting Kyffin the position.
Following the action of the opening laps, the remainder of the race proved to be a marathon rather than a sprint. Soaring temperatures and degrading tire life saw the field string out as drivers focused on consistent lap times. As Simpson chased down 8th position with Bogle closing behind, a heated battle for 7th resulted in contact with just a handful of laps left to go. Simpson was promoted briefly to 7th but slowing to avoid the incident ahead gave Bogle the momentum to challenge for, and ultimately win the position.
6th, 7th and 8th places finished less than a second apart in the chaos of the final lap, with Pedersen and Bogle holding off Simspon’s charge from the back row.
Reflecting on a long, hot race on the Nashville streets, Kyffin said:
“Really tough race today. This track very difficult to pass at, so starting from the back was a challenge but it is what it is. I think we had the potential to finish a bit better today, maybe 6th or 7th. Traffic in the opening laps and a couple of mistakes later in the race prevented that, unfortunately. We still gained some spots and my race pace was right there with the leading cars. The team did a great job. On to the next one.”
With four races remaining, Kyffin is 9th in the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season standings. Simpson returns to the cockpit on August 20th for Round 11 of Indy Lights at World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison IL – otherwise known as ‘Gateway’.
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.