Kyffin Simpson battled to 10th of 19 cars in the INDY NXT by Firestone season opener last weekend, overcoming incidents and three caution periods to take the chequered flag on the streets of in Saint Petersburg, FL.
The 18-year-old Cayman Islands resident was disappointed to come away with only tenth, having shown promise through the Firestone Grand Prix’s practice and qualifying sessions to line up fifth on the starting grid.
HMD Motorsports’ #21 Ridgeline Lubricants / American Legion machine demonstrated front-running pace with Simpson at the wheel, but it would turn out to be a challenging weekend for the young Chip Ganassi Racing development driver.
In cloudy, humid conditions, Simpson took the green flag for the first of 45 laps around St. Pete’s notoriously tight street circuit. Kyffin instantly got to work, passing two cars into turn one – including eventual race leader Jacob Abel – before the first of three yellow flag caution periods was thrown for an incident further back in the pack.
As the pack took the green for a restart several laps later, Kyffin lacked the traction of the cars around him and dropped to seventh position overall, before settling into front-running pace as his Firestone tires came back up to temperature. A small coming together with another car hindered Kyffin’s progress, but thankfully the #21 was unscathed on this occasion.
In the latter stages of the race, a spinning car blocked the track at turn four. Kyffin and another rival were pinned into the tire barrier with nowhere to go, dropping the HMD Motorsports machine to 12th position.
After quick work by the AMR safety crew, Simpson re-joined the pack before the final restart of the now time-limited race due to the repeated cautions. He would go on to climb as high as ninth in the standings, before a final duel with HMD teammate Rasmus Lindh relegated Kyffin to 10th overall at the chequered flag.
Speaking after the race, Kyffin said:
It was a really tough race. Things were looking good after the start, we grabbed P3 at turn one. Unfortunately we weren’t great on the restarts, and there was a lot of them today. I dropped back to around P7. Once the tires came in, I was starting to come back at the guys ahead. The last few laps were just crazy. A few people spun and I got pinched at turn four, nowhere to go. We got going again but by then the race was done. I’m glad this weekend is behind us. Barber is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m looking forward to bouncing back there.
INDY NXT returns on April 28-30 for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix, Birmingham AL Before then, Kyffin will compete in both the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup for Tower Motorsports, and the European Le Mans Series with Algarve Pro Racing, in the LMP2 class. Kyffin hopes to return to victory lane following his win in the Asian Le Mans Series opener last month.
Fans can follow Kyffin’s progress via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Kyffin is supported by Ridgeline Lubricants, The American Legion, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products and Kokoro Media.