Caymanian racer Kyffin Simpson charged to his first-ever pole position start in INDY NXT by Firestone last weekend at Road America, heading a 19-car field after a strong showing in the opening practice sessions.
The #21 Ridgeline Lubricants / American Legion machine was the car to beat at the 4.04-mile ‘National Park of Speed’, but a dramatic air-time incident at the green flag had Kyffin fighting back to a top-10 finish just three corners into the 20-lap race.
Coming off the back of a challenging weekend in Detroit, HMD Motorsports’ Simpson approached Road America with renewed determination to finally return to victory lane. The #21 topped Friday’s opening practice session by an impressive 1.4s margin, taking to the new track surface well, before Simpson and the team focused on tweaking the setup in a hectic second practice session on Saturday morning.
Later that day, Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Simpson logged a best lap of 1:49.1028s in INDY NXT qualifying – nearly three seconds quicker than the previous record, 1:52.0034s set by Colton Herta in 2017. Kyffin’s previous best starting position was fourth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Speaking after qualifying, Kyffin said:
“Incredible. It was a crazy session. We had a red flag early on, and after that, it was just chaos on track with everyone going by. We had a plan to stick in line as a team, but that kind of went out the window when the Andrettis caught us. It was awesome to be able to get the lap.”
11:15am ET Sunday, pole-sitter Simpson led the INDY NXT field to green at the first time by, charging down into the fast right-handed turn one ahead of Colin Kaminsky, Reece Gold and teammate Nolan Siegel.
Defending from the cars behind, Kyffin braked late and took a wide exit through the corner, opting to use the paved run-off on driver’s left as the quick-starting Gold pulled alongside the #21. Unfortunately for Simpson, this would be the moment his fortunes turned, catching a large bump at the end of the paved area as he arced back to driver’s right.
The #21 was briefly airborne, all four wheels off the ground, before landing on the grass beyond the paved area at racing speed. Kyffin did well to keep the car in control, but this loss of momentum had already cost him several positions.
After a manic four laps of fighting in the middle of the pack, Simpson emerged 10th, and focused on making progress back through the field. A mid-race caution period and restart wasn’t enough for the 18-year-old to overcome the deficit, with Kyffin going on to take the checkered flag eighth.
Reflecting on a difficult Sunday, Kyffin said:
“Really tough race. I ran a little wide on the exit of turn one, just enough to catch the bump in the run-off. It was a much bigger hit than I expected, and it launched us hard into the air. Luckily the car wasn’t badly damaged, but landing so far off the track meant we lost a bunch of time. It was a small mistake, but the consequences were huge, [it’s] hard to take after such a good Saturday. HMD did a great job this weekend and I hope we can come back just as strong at Mid-Ohio. I appreciate the support from everyone.”
Kyffin’s next race comes this weekend, 24th-25th June at Watkins Glen International for the 2023 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen event, where he returns to the #8 Tower Motorsports ORECA LMP2 alongside John Farano and new teammate Will Stevens. A week later, 30th June – 2nd July, INDY NXT returns for the seventh race of the season at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course, Lexington OH.
Kyffin is supported by Ridgeline Lubricants, The American Legion, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products and Kokoro Media.