Shell-Pennzoil Karter Kyle Kirkwood Makes Junior Max Grand National DebutAugust 15, 2012
South Bend, Ind. (15 August 2012) – Walldinger Racing karter Kyle Kirkwood completed a busy week of racing as he and the Tim Pappas-led KartSport team took part in the prestigious 12th Annual United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals at Michiana Raceway Park in South Bend, Indiana. Having entered the event in the Mini-Max category in previous years, the 2012 event marked Kirkwood’s debut in the ultra-competitive Junior Max division.
The week-long event featured the top kart racers from across the country and featured an intense schedule: Unofficial practice on Monday & Tuesday, Official practice on Wednesday, Qualifying & Heat 1 on Thursday, Heats 2 &3 on Friday and the Pre-Final and Final events on Saturday. The Junior Max class was divided into four groups based on qualifying times and those four groups raced against each other in three heat races. The combined points awarded to each racer in the heats determined the starting positions for Saturday’s Pre-Final, with the Pre-Final results setting the grid for the Final.
Driving the No. 22 Arrow, Kirkwood’s week was highlighted by a dominating Heat 3 win but it was an up-and-down week for the 13-year-old Florida karter as the victory brought a welcomed haul of points following misfortune in the first two heats.
Having qualified third among the very talented field of Junior karters, Kirkwood lined up second on the grid for Heats 1 & 2. Unfortunately the strong qualifying effort would not translate into the positive race results the team had hoped for when a broken hub saw Kirkwood complete only 10 of 14 laps in Heat 1.
The entire week saw a mix of rainy conditions with bouts of dry weather running, but the challenging wet conditions saw Kirkwood face frustration in Heat 2. Although he had a great start, he was shuffled down the order as the group navigated the tricky wet weather conditions and without enough time left in the 14-lap heat, Kirkwood was forced to settle for a 20th place finish.
Looking for redemption in Heat 3, Kirkwood started from the pole and never looked back. By the third lap, Kirkwood had already developed a 2.237-second gap over the rest of the field and he extended that lead each time by – ultimately taking the checkered flag with a 4.304-second advantage over second place.
The win solidly locked Kirkwood into the Pre-Final while several of his competitors were forced to run the Last Chance Qualifier race for a final shot at starting the Pre-Final event.
Though no rain was forecasted for Saturday’s events, the rain came down the hardest it had throughout the whole week on Saturday morning which made for very challenging conditions in the 20-lap Pre-Final event. Kirkwood’s combined points from the heat races had him starting 25th in the Pre-Final but he wasted no time in maneuvering through the field in the slippery track conditions to run as high as fourth before ultimately finishing the race 19th.
The 13-year-old racer would have his work cut out for him in the Final as he started from the 10th row, but with the rain finally moving out of the area, Kirkwood was set to move to the front with the Final held under sunny skies and dry track conditions.
The No. 22 Arrow was pushed wide on the start with Kirkwood falling back to 24th, but the resilient racer remained determined to move forward and began a charge through the field. He cracked the top-20 to run 19th by the fourth lap and seamlessly picked up positions each time by and was back up to 14th with 10 laps remaining in the race. He would work his way into the 12th position where he would take the checkered flag after 26 laps of hard running.
“We didn’t really have the results we were hoping for, but we learned a lot and I definitely got even more experience driving in the rain!,” said Kirkwood. “We just didn’t have the set-up for the wet conditions and unfortunately we were caught out with the broken hub in the first heat. It was great to win Heat 3 and it showed that in the dry conditions we definitely were in contention for a podium finish for the Final. But it just wasn’t meant to be. The rain really hurt us in the Pre-Final which put me deep in the field for the Final and there just wasn’t enough time left in the race to make my way any further forward than 12th. It was a great experience and I learned a lot driving against some of the toughest competitors in the nation and now we’ll take what we learned to New Castle next month.”
Next up for Kirkwood is the final round of WKA Manufacturers Cup competition at New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana September 14-16.
Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with 93,000 employees in more than 90 countries. In the U.S., Shell operates in 50 states and employs nearly 20,000 people using technology and innovation to help tackle the challenges of the new energy future. The Shell downstream organization manages a portfolio of top-quality brands, including the No. 1 selling gasoline and premium gasoline brand[i] and Pennzoil®, the most trusted motor oil brand in America*. Shell’s motorsports technical alliances around the world provide a testing ground for fuel and lubricant technologies and products in demanding road conditions. The knowledge Shell and Pennzoil gain through these alliances help address tomorrow’s world mobility energy challenge with efficient solutions that power and protect motorists around the globe.
About Walldinger Racing, Inc.: Walldinger Racing was formed in 2006 to support AJ Allmendinger’s motorsports career by developing commercial opportunities and partnership programs.
Formed in August 2010, KartSport is the exclusive North American importer of Arrow Racing Karts. Owned and operated by professional karting and racing veterans Justin Marks and Eric Jones, and operating out of a state-of-the-art facility in Mooresville, North Carolina, KartSport delivers to the karting industry a number of quality products and services. KartSport also designs and manufacturers it’s own line of karting tools and components.
Founded in 1977 Sparco is the world leader in motor sports safety equipment. More than 35 years later, Sparco's ambition for producing the safest and innovative driving equipment possible, is still the number one priority for the company. At speeds of more than 200 mph, and temperatures above 120 degrees, a driver must be 100% confident in their safety equipment. Therefore, the world's top professional drivers choose Sparco, more than any other brand.
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