Kyle Kirkwood is contesting this weekend’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park as a defending race winner for the first time.
His breakout win in Long Beach put him back on the top step of the podium, an accomplishment he has not earned since his time in the feeder series.
He barely had a chance to soak up the victory, however, as he rushed home to Jupiter, Florida immediately after the race to finish closing on a house, and then was straight back behind the wheel for the Indy 500 open test that same week.
Kirkwood’s not disappointed to have to delay any bigger celebrations. His plan is to keep the exact same mindset as the year goes forward, and setting the accomplishment of his race win to the side in his mind.
“I soaked it in on the plane as much as I could heading home from Long Beach, but I had to shoot straight home to close on a home I bought,” Kirkwood told Motorsport Week. “So it was a busy day with that.
“Then straight back up to Indianapolis to get ready for the open test, which was super enjoyable. We were super fast there.
“But that’s how it should be. We’re in the middle of the season. When you get a win, you’re instantly mindset for the next race. Hopefully at the end of the year you can celebrate a bit more after your accomplishments on the year.
“The mindset doesn’t change for me, though. I go into every weekend trying to win the race, and doing everything in our power to make our car fast enough to win a race. And do everything in my power as a driver to drive well enough to win a race.
“So the mindset never changes, it’s just nice to get one under our belt and prove that we can do it. That creates a lot of momentum within the team, within the engineering group, within the drivers. Getting it done, executing, and we can get more and more.”
Having all but dominated each step of the IndyCar development ladder, Kirkwood is more comfortable than most at the front of the field.
It’s a position that he hopes to find himself in more often as the year continues on, building on the momentum he now has after his win in Long Beach.
“I just feel way more comfortable. When I’m out front, when I’m controlling the pace, when I’m controlling the strategy, when I’m understanding what people are doing around me and it’s not just a bunch of different cars on different strategies. I feel a lot more comfortable.
“I wouldn’t say winning races is the norm that I should expect every single weekend, right? But it is more comfortable out front for me, and it feels like the stuff I had in the Road to Indy coming up.”