LEXINGTON, Ohio (July 2, 2022)–There were smiles all around the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet as Kyle Kirkwood and team qualified ninth for their best qualifying performance of the season Saturday afternoon at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“Yeah, super happy with our performance today,” remarked a jubilant Kirkwood who has enjoyed much success at the 2.258-mile track in junior formulas. “The No. 14 Sexton Chevrolet had pace all weekend, we just weren’t able to extract it until qualifying. I’m so happy to show the performance that we deserve and we’re still working with the car. We feel like we have pace and there’s still something to be gained. For me, I feel like all year we’ve had a faster race car than a faster qualifying car. So hopefully that plays in our favor as well. We’re starting from the pointy end of the field so we can make things happen from there.”
Kirkwood was 11th in the first practice on Friday but slipped to 19th in this morning’s practice.
“In one session we had one balance and then we go to the other session and it’s on the other spectrum,” Kirkwood said, adding, “so we just found a happy medium there in qualifying and got back to form. Man, we were so close to transferring there but it’s just a tenth and a half–that’s all you needed. You get about one lap to do it. We even tuned on the car in qualifying and got a lot better. So I’m super happy with what the A.J. Foyt crew has been doing because we took the car from the P 11, then P 19, and now into the top 12, and almost transferring it to the Fast Six. So that would’ve been really cool. It’s the best qualifying of the year, so I couldn’t be happier with this performance.”
Kirkwood credited their recent test at the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which yielded some insights into tweaking their road course setups.
“Our strong suit’s been street courses all year,” Kirkwood pointed out. “And this is a road course and somewhere that we’ve struggled. We tested at IMS, and we feel like we found some stuff and maybe that’s translated into some gains in lap time. Hopefully we can carry that speed through the road courses which gives me confidence going into the later races like Portland and Laguna.”
The insights yielded some gains for his teammates too because both Dalton Kellett and Tatiana Calderón said they like their cars’ race setups.
Kellett, who will start 23rd in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet after posting a lap time of 1 minute, 8.2444 seconds, commented, “Overall, I think we’ve got a pretty good car here. The run on my end was a little scrappy, I made some mistakes on the third lap so didn’t quite get the optimum lap time put together. I think there was probably four-tenths to half a second there in just putting all the good sectors in the same lap. So that’s something for me to work on, but I think overall the car feels pretty good and I’m optimistic for what we’ve got for the race tomorrow. I think we’ve got a better car here in terms of the road course packets, and maybe where we’ve been so far this year so that’s really good to see. We found some stuff with the test at Indy that Kyle was at last week. So there’s good changes that we’ve been putting on the car and that’s been a helpful direction so far.”
Kellett used a different tire strategy from his teammates when his K-Line engineers decided to go with two sets of the softer alternate compound (red-sidewalled) Firestone tires rather than the primary and then alternate compound tires used by his teammates.
“We thought it’s been kind of a scrappy weekend overall with a lot of people going off, so we figured to get a run in the bank as far as getting on the reds early–just in case there was a yellow in the second half of the segment,” Kellett revealed. “But realistically looking back at it, I don’t know if that was the right call because the track felt like it was pretty off from the sessions before us on that first run. So, I don’t think we got the advantage out of it but hindsight is 20-20 on those calls.”
Starting 26th in the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet, Calderón explained their decision to save two sets of the alternate compound (red) tires for the race saying, “We think it will be a red tire race so we wanted to save the red tires for the race instead of using two sets in qually.”
Speaking of her qualifying run in which she posted a lap time of 1 minute, 8.4370 seconds, she explained, “I think we’ve been improving the car and I felt really good in the car with those reds. We had a different strategy than most of the guys–I wanted to do four laps with the reds because it took a bit longer for me to get them in yesterday. But unfortunately, we had a lot of traffic ahead of us. So I really could only squeeze in one lap and it was not so great. But I think we have a really good race car. And we have two sets of reds for the race tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it.”
With a lap time of 1 minute, 6.7054 seconds, Pato O’Ward won his first pole position of the season and became the ninth different driver this season to do so. It was his fifth career pole position. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were: Scott McLaughlin, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud.
There will be a 30-minute morning warmup starting at 9:45 a.m. ET which will be streamed on Peacock Premium. The NBC broadcast of the 80-lap race starts at 12:30 p.m. ET with the green flag set to wave at 12:53 p.m. The race will also be broadcast on the INDYCAR Radio Network and streamed on Peacock Premium.