Simpson comes in sneaky fast in IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg

Kyffin Simpson was the top rookie performer on Sunday in St. Petersburg. And while his run to 14th at the finish might not stand out as praiseworthy, the fact that he avoided the kind of mistakes to took out veterans and newcomers alike during the 100-lap contest was impressive.

But the part of the teenager’s IndyCar debut that was hardest to ignore was the blistering lap he fired in towards the end of the race which placed his No. 4 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda second on the day, only behind race-winner Josef Newgarden.

On lap 64, the Team Penske driver clocked a 1m00.6795s lap during his dominating performance, and on lap 88, the kid from the Cayman Islands threw down a 1m00.8779 to show he’s got serious speed to offer.


“It was a great first day,” Simpson told RACER after improving nine positions. “All this weekend, I haven’t been so comfortable in the car, but in the race, I just felt like having lots of consistent laps was going to help me, and I just kept going and getting comfortable with the track. I felt like that all helped a lot. And then by the end, when we got on the alternate [tires], I felt so much confidence to just push and push. I was really happy with the strategy and just having that ability to really push it to the end.”

Simpson’s No. 4 program was loaded with debut experiences as Danielle Shepherd had a successful first event as an IndyCar race engineer, as did Chris Wheeler, who called race strategy for the program after spending more than a decade as a spotter.

“That’s what we were hoping for,” Shepherd said. “We came into it and said, ‘Be good and get your first one under your belt and finish strong.’ And he did that; highest finishing rookie. He has a lot of experience elsewhere, so now we need to build that experience up here.”