Things are moving forward for TJ Speed Motorsports, as plans continue to take shape ahead of the team’s formal entry into Indy Lights as of 2022. Today the squad announced it has signed Formula Regional Americas and Indy Pro 2000 ace Kyffin Simpson as its lead driver, while owner Tim Neff and his crew continue to look for suitable drivers for as many as two additional cars.
The signing of Simpson isn’t a huge surprise, given the amount of testing work the youngster from the Cayman Islands has completed with the team in recent weeks. Simpson has been racking up over 2,000 miles at a variety of tracks around the United States, including Road America, Homestead and Barber Motorsports Park.
The 17-year-old is also firmly heading towards a Formula Regional Americas championship with TJ Speed, ensuring he knows the squad well by now. With three races left to go, Simpson defends a 65-point gap over Australian Joshua Car after securing five wins and an additional six podiums this season. In Indy Pro 2000, Simpson finished on the podium twice on his way to eighth overall this season.
“I’m really excited to confirm my 2022 Indy Lights program with TJ Speed Motorsports,” Simpson commented. “It’s another important step to reach my overall goal, racing in IndyCar. With IndyCar resuming management of the series from next season, things are looking positive for the future. The IL-15 is great to drive. Tim, the team and I have been working hard to understand what it needs to get that last 5 per cent out of it, and I feel pretty confident I will be challenging at the front from the season opener.”
TJ Speed’s approach to testing and getting Simpson comfortable in the Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights car has been meticulous. Apart from taking him to a variety of tracks, F1 Feeder Series can reveal that the team has engaged former Pro Mazda champion and Indy Lights race winner Victor Franzoni as driver coach for Simpson. Encouragingly, Simpson has been able to meet the benchmark speeds set by Franzoni during various test outings.
Toby Sowery, another former Lights race winner who has his sights set on the NTT IndyCar Series for 2022, joined the team at Road America as TJ Speed tested with two cars for the first time. Sowery, too, supported the team with set-up work and benchmarking, further helping the squad to prepare Simpson for his rookie season in Indy Lights. Despite good showings throughout the 2021 season, Sowery is understood not to be a candidate for a vacant seat.
“All of us at TJ Speed are excited to have Kyffin sign with us for Indy Lights,” said Tim Neff. “We’ve had great success in Formula Regional this year and are hard at work to prepare for the next step of Kyffin’s career. Testing in the IL-15 has been going great and Kyff hasn’t put a foot wrong.”
As for Simpson’s potential teammates, TJ Speed continues to speak to a variety of candidates. Team owner Neff told F1 Feeder Series in August that the team is looking at both drivers on the Road to Indy and from European series, and confirms that list now also includes drivers active in Japan. While TJ Speed is predominantly focused on getting two cars out on track, it has the option to field a third Dallara if a suitable driver presents itself.
As previously reported by F1 Feeder Series, the entry of TJ Speed into Lights is the first of as many as three new teams for the 2022 season, with two existing Road to Indy teams also planning an entry. A variety of intel from across the series confirms that while a 16–18 car grid is likely for 2022, as much as 20 cars are possible under the best scenario.
Next up for Simpson and TJ Speed is the annual Chris Griffis Memorial test session at Indianapolis on October 30–31, where TJ Speed will reportedly be one of at least six Indy Lights teams to appear. The final round of the FR Americas championship takes place on November 5–7 at the Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, Texas.
Photo credit: Yesid Pamplona
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