Kyle Kirkwood wins 2021 Indy Lights title

Kirkwood Indy Lights championship
Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Kyle Kirkwood clinched the 2021 Indy Lights championship and $1.3 million ticket to the NTT IndyCar Series this past weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

After winning Saturday’s 30-lap opening event for his fourth consecutive victory (tying the late Greg Moore’s 1995 Indy Lights record with his 10th triumph this season), Kirkwood, 22, finished fifth Sunday.

The Jupiter, Florida, native needed only to start to wrap up the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title and a $1.3 million scholarship that guarantees a minimum of three IndyCar races (including the 106th Indy 500) in 2022. He finished 13 points ahead of David Malukas (537-524) in the championship standings after 20 races.

Kirkwood drives for Andretti Autosport, which reportedly is considering him for a full-time IndyCar ride next season.

“To bring it home today and get this scholarship, it’s such a big relief,” Kirkwood said. “It’s been such a stressful season, especially at the end. We really had to push to beat (Malukas), they’ve been knocking on our door all season long. To get the win yesterday was crucial, and to survive today was crucial, though I have to say today was even harder than yesterday.

“But this is insane. I can’t thank everyone enough: Cape Motorsports, RP Motorsports, Andretti Autosport. It’s been an incredible four years. I’ve learned so much this year from the Andretti team. They’ve really taught me so much and I can’t thank them enough. And huge thanks especially to my entire 28 crew, they’ve worked so hard.”

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Malukas won Saturday and charged from last to second Sunday (behind winner Linus Lundqvist) after an opening-lap crash on the 2.258-mile road course.

“I couldn’t get any temp in the tires, and I knew it would be a problem going into Turn One,” he said. “Everyone was spinning and sliding all over the place. But that’s almost like a win, since I made it hard on myself.

“I decided to just have fun out there, going left, right, everywhere to try and make it happen. I’m really happy, even though we finished second today and in the championship. The team has shown what we can do. I feel as though I’ve matured so much over the past two years, and I’ve enjoyed this season so much. We battled the whole way and it’s been great to share that with this team, so a huge thank you to the team. This has been a year to remember.”

Mid-Ohio concluded the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season for the three ladder series to IndyCar. Here’s how the other two divisions ended:

–Indy Pro 2000: Christian Rasmussen of Copenhagen, Denmark, won the championship as James Roe scored his first series victory Sunday.

Rasmussen, 21, also won the 2000 USF2000 championship. He started last and finished third in the finale, which he needed only to start to clinch the title. “I knew that as soon as I saw the green flag, I was the champion, so I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I could just enjoy the moment and enjoy the race. Now I can start to think about 2022 and Indy Lights.”

–USF2000: Kiko Porto of Brazil clinched the championship Saturday and then notched his 10th podium finish in Sunday’s season finale, which was won by Josh Green (his first series victory).

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.