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Simpson's path to Ganassi IndyCar seat aided by sportscar experience

New Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar signing Kyffin Simpson says his experience of racing sportscars in LMP2 will ease the Indy NXT graduate's adaption to US open wheel's top tier.

Kyffin Simpson, Chip Ganassi Racing

The Barbados-born Caymanian was signed as a development driver with CGR in May 2022, only two races into his Indy NXT career that already featured a fifth-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park. He ended up finishing his rookie campaign ninth in the standings after switching teams from TJ Speed Motorsports to HMD Motorsports mid-season.

There were already some flashes of potential shown the year prior as Simpson took seven wins, 13 podiums and two poles en route to winning the 2021 Formula Regional Americas Championship.

Fast forward to the conclusion of the 2023 Indy NXT season, the 18-year-old’s record included a career-best runner-up result (Mid-Ohio), an additional podium and a pole to finish 10th in the championship standings after competing in 13 of 14 events.

The lone event missed at Gateway was a result of a schedule conflict with his full-time commitment to the European Le Mans Series. He currently sits second in the LMP2 championship standings entering this weekend’s contest at Spa-Francorchamps - the fourth of six rounds.

That’s part of why all involved feel the timing is right for Simpson’s move up to North America’s premier open-wheel championship – his variety of experience across multiple forms of racing with evidence of growth.

Beyond his current ELMS run with Algarve Pro Racing, he also helped the team finish third in the Asian Le Mans Series standings during the early part of the year. Additionally, he has contested the endurance rounds in IMSA each of the past two years, winning the GTD category (with Gradient Racing) at Petit Le Mans last year and at Sebring in LMP2 with Tower Motorsports this March, co-driving with John Farano and Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin.

“I think it's helped me in a lot of ways doing all these different series,” Simpson said.

“Racing sportscars has helped a lot with my fuel saving and pit stops. Obviously, we don't do that in Indy NXT, you're just pushing flat out for 35 laps or however long the race is.

“I think doing all that this year was very helpful, but also just general racecraft, being in close races with other drivers has been very helpful, just doing lots of racing this year.”

#8 Tower Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07: John Farano, Scott McLaughlin, Kyffin Simpson

#8 Tower Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07: John Farano, Scott McLaughlin, Kyffin Simpson

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Simpson has spent the process since being affiliated with Ganassi being part of engineering debriefs, learning the nuances within the team, along with certain coaching and feedback. In January, he got his first taste of driving one of CGR’s Indycars at a test at Sebring.

“Yeah, I think it's been very helpful being able to work with the team, learn the team, learn how they do things,” Simpson said.

“Also just learn all the engineers and mechanics. Just meeting them has been very helpful.

“I think that will be something that helps me a lot going into this next year. I think it will be very exciting to work with them even closer than I have previously.”

The off-season work, which is built around his remaining sportscar commitments, has already begun with simulator work, although there remain questions over the number he’ll run in Ganassi's expanded five-car lineup or who his engineer and strategist will be. 

He added that he's not focused on beating team-mate and 2022 Indy NXT champion Linus Lundqvist to rookie of the year honours.

“I don't really have any expectations set for myself right now,” Simpson said.

“It would be great to win Rookie of the Year. I don't have anything specifically set for myself right now.”

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