Last to first.
That’s what Kyle Kirkwood did Saturday afternoon as he won the Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis at World Wide Technology Raceway.
After having his qualifying run disqualified Friday, Kirkwood knew he had to bail out his RP Motorsports USA team.
“Everything just kind of went in our favor,” said Kirkwood, a rookie in the series. “I’d take the direction (to pass) and it worked every time. We had to go for it. And a little bit of an aggressive move from me, put us almost in the lead in the (points) championship.”
Kirkwood had been slated to start second in the 12-car field. But, because his team worked on his car while it was in the qualifying line Friday, a no-no by the rules, he had to start from the back.
By lap 7 of the 55-lap event, Kirkwood had motored to the front. From there, he never looked back, although there were some anxious moments late when, with 12 laps remaining, Moises de la Vara backed his machine into the outside wall in turns 1 and 2.
That closed the field up and Kirkwood had to hold off Kory Enders and series points leader Rasmus Lindh when the green flag waved with seven laps to go.
He did that to pick up his sixth win of the season. He also closed the gap in the points title chase and now trails Lindh by six points, 323-317.
“I wanted to redeem my team because of the mistake we made yesterday,” Kirkwood said. “Try to get my engineer some sleep because he was down last night.”
Before the yellow flag, Enders was steadily closing in on Kirkwood’s lead and he was pretty confident he was going to pass Kirkwood at some point.
“Oh, I could catch him,” said Enders, who earned his first podium in the series “The gap was closing, closing. Then the yellow came out and everybody bunched up again and the aero wash is really bad.”
As for Lindh, who started on the pole, he dropped back in the early stages, but was going forward in the end and passed Enders for the second spot coming out of turn 4 on the last lap.
“I didn’t do my job,” admitted Lindh. “But then the safety car (yellow flag) helped us out. I had a good run in one and two, but he blocked. But I was able to pass on the outside. Second is better than third.”