DETROIT — Kyle Kirkwood doubled his fun and doubled his fun on Belle Isle on Friday. Less than an hour after setting the fastest time in the opening practice of Sunday’s IndyCar race, the young Floridian steered his #17 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3 to the GT Daytona (GTD) Motul Pole Award for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event, the Chevrolet Sportscar Classic.
Kirkwood’s second career pole at the WeatherTech Championship came on his final lap of a tantalizing qualifying session. His time of 1 minute, 29.096 seconds (94.953 mph) edged local favorite Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 by 0.118 seconds in the 15-minute session that saw the top four qualifiers stuck in two-tenths of a second.
“Someone asked, ‘Have you ever been to the media center (for press conferences) twice in one day? “, Kirkwood said. “I don’t think I have. It’s a first for me, especially in a 45-minute timeframe. Today ranks pretty high in my career. head now because of all the races I’ve done, but it’s been a lot of fun. My passion is motor racing and I have to do a lot of that today.
Kirkwood was quick to thank the team of Vasser Sullivan and Lexus for giving him the tools to do the job. But he easily conceded that the extra track time resulting from driving two cars this weekend was a factor in his performance.
“If they were very similar cars, it would be much more difficult,” he explained. “But with two totally different cars – the IndyCar has a ton of downforce, a lot more power and is lighter; then the sports car is heavy, no downforce, different tires, ABS (system anti-lock braking), traction control – so there are a lot of differences.
Getting a read of track conditions during IndyCar testing was also a definite plus when it came to qualifying the Lexus.
“The extra track time made me think, ‘Oh, the wind affects one car that way, so I can expect that to happen in the next session with the other car,'” did he declare. “I came out of IndyCar after the wind really picked up and it broke off in Turn 1, so I gave that to the Vasser Sullivan guys, they put in a bit more rear wing and we went out and qualified on pole, so so far so good to balance the two.
“The Lexus is pretty strong on street courses. They’ve won a few times here and almost won a few other times, so it’s no secret that they’re pretty strong here, and I’m happy to maintain that reputation.
Confirming the Lexus street circuit chops, Frankie Montecalvo posted the fourth-fastest lap in the #12 Vasser Sullivan car (1:29.299), just behind Madison Snow in the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 (1 : 29.286).
Aidan Read finished fifth in the #51 Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX GT3 (1:29.544), two-tenths faster than Robert Megennis in the #39 CarBahn in the Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Russell Ward finished seventh in Winward Racing’s #52 Mercedes-AMG GT3, ensuring six different brands will start in the top seven GTD spots on Saturday.
The 100-minute race airs live at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio