Benjamin Pedersen celebrated his 19th birthday on the tallest podium step after claiming his second win of the season during Round 4 of the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda at Road Atlanta on Friday. James Raven scored his first podium with a second-place finish and Dakota Dickerson rounded out the top three. Dickerson is the only competitor to visit the podium in every round of the 2018 season.
“There’s no better way to start the weekend and celebrate my birthday than with a win,” said Pedersen. “I raced at Road Atlanta before when F4 competed here in its first season, and that experience has really helped me adapt quickly to the track’s fast corners and extreme elevation changes. The Global Racing Group team worked hard to put a fast car underneath me and their hard work paid off. We turned the fastest time today, which put us in pole position for the next race.”
After an aborted standing start, the F4 U.S. field lined up two by two for its first rolling start of the season. Christian Rasmussen started Round 4 in pole position, sharing the front row with fellow Dane Pedersen. Dickerson and Jose Blanco-Chock completed Row 2 with Jacob Loomis and Austin Kaszuba starting in Row 3.
As the green flag dropped, Pedersen punched the throttle of his orange No. 24 DirtFish Rally F4 U.S. car and stole P1 from Rasmussen immediately. Dickerson was also fast off the start, and quickly positioned himself to challenge the front runners. The trio delivered a teeth-clinching moment as they nearly went three-wide into the first turn. Pedersen bareley pulled ahead, leaving Dickerson to challenge on the inside which forced Rasmussen wide to the far outside.
The battle between the three drivers ended prematurely in the second lap. After dropping wheels off track, Rasmussen understeered, smashing into the wall in Turn 2. The dust cloud from Rasmussen’s off-track excursion, impeded the vision of Aussie driver Joshua Car, causing the Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport driver to suffer the same fate.
“I was running close behind Christian when he went off track. He kicked up a dust cloud and I couldn’t avoid going through it,” said Car. “By the time I cleared the dust, the wall was right in front of me. I had just enough time to cut the wheel so I wouldn’t hit it head on. It was a disappointing way to end the first race since we were on pace to be in the top three.”
Both drivers were unharmed, but the damage sustained from the accident ended their day. Nearly simultaneously further down the field, Parker Locke and Ethan Billions made incidental contact, spinning off track. With minor damage to both cars, Locke and Billions continued the race, however, the two incidents caused an extended full track yellow.
On the restart, Raven, who started P8 and charged his way to the front, got the jump on Dickerson, overtaking the DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports pilot in Turn 10. The battle for position, slowed the duo enough for Pedersen to pull away, leaving both Raven and Dickerson unable to capitalize on Pedersen’s draft. On the final lap, Dickerson and Raven were side-by-side going into the last turn. Raven approached the race line first. Dickerson recognized this and to avoid potential contact, yielded position to Raven. The DEForce Racing driver crossed the finish line one tenth of a second ahead of Dickerson, clinching the team’s first F4 podium.
“I am very pleased to represent DEForce on the podium for the first time,” Raven said. “Defending Dakota is quite tricky. Dakota and I have history racing together in other series, and I know that he is relentless, but a respectable driver. He pushed me right to the end but backed off so we wouldn’t make contact in the last turn. I can’t say that every driver would make that same decision under high-pressure.
Austin Kaszuba finished Round 4 in fourth, Blanco-Chock took fifth, Braden Eves stormed his way from 16th to sixth with Justin Gordon, Eduardo Barrichello and Conrad Clark completing the top 10.
Further down the field, Jack William Miller and Kent Vaccaro also had an exceptional race. Both sophomore F4 U.S. drivers advanced 10 or more positions in the first round.
The day commenced with an early morning qualifying session. Five different teams were represented in the top five, and the top seven qualifiers beat the previous qualifying track record (1m27.921s) set by inaugural F4 U.S. champion Cameron Das.
UP NEXT: The final two rounds of the Road Atlanta weekend start Sunday. Race 2 begins at 9:10 a.m. ET with Pedersen staring pole. The weekend concludes with Race 3 at 12:50 p.m.