The 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood got his first taste of a true IndyCar on Wednesday, taking part in a test day with Andretti Autosport.
Kirkwood completed approximately 50 laps around Sebring’s short course, dodging rain showers as he came to grips with Colton Herta’s #26 machine.
Per Road to Indy regulations, Indy Lights champions are guaranteed at least three IndyCar race weekends the following season, meaning the 22-year-old needs to take some time this offseason to prepare for his step up to the top series.
After the day’s running, Kirkwood told RACER that he felt very comfortable behind the wheel after just a few laps.
“The car does everything phenomenally, but it wasn’t overwhelming,” Kirkwood told RACER. “My fourth timed lap in the car was only 0.9s off of my quickest lap all day, so it was like I got in the car and it was comfortable to go quick right away.
“It’s actually not that much different from a Lights car. The biggest thing is the Firestone tires and how they react. I didn’t even notice the aeroscreen, so that was good.
“The braking efficiency is not that much greater than the Lights car, and the pressure that is needed is about the same.
“The damper development that IndyCar has, since teams are open to be being able to do what they want, is the biggest technology change that I felt. The car absorbs everything so nicely.
“When I drove Lights cars at Sebring, you go into Turn 3, touch the inside curb, and you’re going for a ride.
“In the IndyCar, you actually can clip the curb and it doesn’t do anything; you don’t even notice it.
“The Honda power was really good, but overall, the IndyCar reacts very similarly to the Lights car.”
Devlin DeFrancesco, who also drives for Andretti and finished sixth in the Indy Lights standings, was also present and logged his own initial laps at the private test session.
Neither driver has a contract signed for next season at this time, but there are a few seats open still and it will not be a surprise to see their names come up around the paddock frequently.