Race Report: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear
DETROIT (June 5, 2022) -- Grace under pressure. Courage. Kyle Kirkwood showed a true measure of it in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Sunday afternoon with his impressive drive in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet.
Unfortunately, in sports, heroic efforts don't always yield heroic results. So the records will show he finished 24th in the final grand prix at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race will move downtown next year.
It will not show that he drove through the pain of his injured right hand that swelled to twice its size. What the records will show is that he was fastest in practice on Friday, his first time as a rookie.
Race engineer Mike Colliver talks with Kirkwood after their race ended early.
That joy was short-lived however as a mechanical issue combined with circumstances in Saturday's morning practice saw him crash into the tire barrier with enough impact that he sustained an injury to his right hand. X-rays showed it was not broken so he was cleared medically to drive.
The ROKiT crew repaired the car in time for qualifying and he started 15th, alongside eventual race winner Will Power. Like Power, Kirkwood started on the primary black tires and moved into the top five. He got fresh blacks for the second stint and continued to run in the top five.
On his final stop, he took on the mandatory alternate compound (softer) red Firestones with just 22 laps left in the race. Pushing hard on his out lap, he hit a curb which launched him into a fishtail wiggle as he got on the power. He appeared to save it but he brushed the wall with his left rear at just the right angle to bend the upper wishbone of the suspension. Making his way back to the pits, the crew determined it wasn't fixable.
And so ended a drive filled with true grit and determination. However disappointing the result, the crew, one by one, congratulated the 23-year-old rookie on his effort because they knew what it took to deliver that performance.
"We were having an amazing race," said the 2021 Indy Lights champion. "Fantastic strategy. The 14
ROKiT Chevrolet felt absolutely solid all the way through the entire stint. We were super competitive and yeah, pitstops were great. Everything was solid and on our last stop when I knew it meant a lot to get that one out lap under our belts really, really quick, I made a very small mistake that had massive consequences, which is a very common thing I guess around street courses. Super unfortunate. I feel really, really bad for the team with all the effort that we put in. I was even fighting an injury throughout the entire past two days and feels like some efforts have gone to waste because of that."
Dalton Kellett who also crashed in Saturday morning's practice was fortunate to escape injury as he hit a curb wrong and the car snapped and he hit the wall hard with the left side. The crew spent the rest of the day repairing the car so Kellett missed qualifying and had to start last in the 26-car field.
On a track that is notoriously difficult to pass, Kellett was able to gain some positions in the 70-lap race. He posted his fastest lap of the race to move into 18th just before pitting for new red tires on lap 46. He slipped to 21st due to track position when he pitted but moved back up to 19th three laps later. Scott McLaughlin passed him on lap 57 dropping Kellett to 20th.
"We started last and we were able to move up to 20th so I was glad to salvage some positions for the No. 4 K-Line Chevy. The crew was flawless in pit lane, we had good stops and we were on the two-stop strategy. Although it led to a pretty hair-raising stint at the end on the reds, I think that was the right choice overall, just given the pace on blacks.
Kellett chats with race engineer Mike Pawlowski as his Mark Kellett looks on.
"Overall, I feel like the setup we have seems to treat the blacks a bit better; it didn't seem like we could keep the reds under us for very long," Kellett continued. "You know once we got into like 10 laps on that last stint, they were pretty far gone and by the end, I was losing two seconds a lap so we were pretty exposed there. We were able to keep the keep the positions that we gained on track and on good in-and-out laps."
Tatiana Calderón finished 23rd in the race on one of the bumpiest street courses in the NTT INDYCAR Series. The race was slowed by just one yellow that came on the final lap when Rinus Veekay crashed.
Calderón shares her thoughts with team president and strategist Larry Foyt.
"We finished the race which was positive," said the Series' only female driver. "I think it's the first time in history that there's no yellow flag on a really tricky track. Unfortunately, I did do mistakes on the first set of tires. And on my red tire run [second stint], I had a big flat spot so I compromised a little bit my pace there. [How?] I couldn't really brake hard, because I was just locking up so easily. So I had to take it easy in that part of the race. I think in the last stint on the blacks, there were some competitive lap times. At the end, when the leaders came you just lose so much grip [letting them pass] so it's frustrating. But I think we made a big step with the ROKiT Chevrolet. I'm super thankful to the crew for all their hard work and now the good thing is we have another weekend coming up just next week, so hopefully we can do much better."
Power displayed his road and street course prowess in holding off a hard-charging Alexander Rossi in the final laps. Third through fifth were Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Pato O'Ward.
The teams head to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this week for the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America. It will be broadcast on NBC starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.