Kyffin Simpson notched his second podium finish of the 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone season on the fourth of July weekend, chasing down the leading cars to score a decisive second-place finish at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course.
The Chip Ganassi Racing development driver maintained the strong form shown at the previous round at Road America, proving doubters wrong with a composed performance in the face of mixed weather conditions, competitor incidents, red flags, and full-course yellows.
After dialing in the #21 Ridgeline Lubricants / American Legion machine in the two opening practice sessions, 18-year-old Simpson emerged as one to watch at Mid-Ohio, alongside fellow HMD Motorsports driver Rasmussen and the two Andretti Autosport cars of Foster and McElrea.
The weather threatened to dampen Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, but relented early enough beforehand for the track to dry for the 17-car NXT field. Eight minutes of green flag running is all that Kyffin and his competitors had to set their time, and this was effectively halved by a red flag in the third minute of the session.
Once the green flag flew again, there was just under four minutes on the clock – enough time for one, maybe two ‘push’ laps. Kyffin found a gap in traffic and crossed the line in time to log two fast laps just 0.1s shy of the session benchmark, and third overall. Teammate Rasmussen lined up on pole position ahead of Foster, Simpson and McElrea.
Speaking after qualifying, Kyffin said:
“That was an interesting session. We had a red flag exactly halfway through, but I managed to get two runs in at the end. The second run was a little bit better that the first, but it only felt like the last one was solid. P3 overall, good result.”
On Sunday morning, dark clouds loomed over Mid-Ohio for the third day in succession, but the rain held off – at least for the start – of the 11:30 ET INDY NXT Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio.
Taking the green on the long back straight, the field charged down into the tricky turns four-five-six complex in front of a bumper race day crowd. Kyffin braked late into the corner to cover off any challenges from behind, before settling into the race to charge after Rasmussen and Foster ahead.
It wouldn’t be long before the weather began to influence the race. After a tense opening stint with the leading quartet gapping the rest of the field, light rain began to fall, bunching the four together as the leader struggled to find a reference in the slick conditions.
Foster acted first, taking the lead from Rasmussen, before a full course yellow neutralised the race. At the next green, Kyffin took the opportunity to attack Rasmussen at the ‘Keyhole’ hairpin turn two. Initially faking to the outside, Simpson lunged down the inside of his teammate in a last second manoeuvre to take second place.
The action was hard but fair, with barely an inch separating the tires of the two cars. Ultimately, Kyffin had the better exit off the corner and Rasmussen slotted in behind, now focused on defending from a hard-charging McLrea.
With the lap count winding down, Kyffin set about chasing down race leader Foster. He successfully reduced the gap to within half a second on the final lap, with race engineer Alex willing Kyffin on to ‘give it everything’.
Simpson crossed the line just behind Foster to secure his best finish of the 2023 season so far, a well-deserved result and proof in the progress made behind the scenes in working with both HMD Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.
Kyffin summed up his weekend with:
“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 is in two weeks’ time, 15th-16th July in Le Castellet, France for the 4H Le Castellet event at the Paul Ricard Circuit, the second round of the European Le Mans Series.. A week later, 22nd July, INDY NXT returns for the eighth race of the season at Iowa Spoeedway.
Kyffin is supported by Ridgeline Lubricants, The American Legion, Visit Cayman Islands, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products and Kokoro Media.