Underdogs rose to the top to claim their first top-10 finishes and fumbles from point leaders left fans on the edge of their seats, watching as the drama unfolded during the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda penultimate event at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Sunday. Dakota Dickerson clinched the 2018 season championship after winning the last two rounds, claiming the title before the United States Grand Prix finale at Circuit of The Americas next month.
Dickerson shared the podium with James Raven and Jose Blanco in Round 14 and Teddy Wilson and Joshua Car in the weekend finale.
“It’s hard to express how amazing it feels to have the championship secured heading into the season finale at Circuit of the Americas,” said Dickerson, who broke the record for the most consecutive races in the top-10 in the last event.
“The DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports guys gave me a car that could contest for wins throughout the championship and none of this success would have happened if it weren’t for the immense amount of determination, passion and pure drive that all the guys put into this program. I’m glad we were able to secure the championship by claiming two wins this weekend. We will be pushing harder than ever to finish the season with another pair of wins.”
In the NJMP finale, Raven launched off the line from pole position, quickly defending the lead from Dickerson, who started on the outside of Row 1. The DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports sophomore followed closely on Raven’s gearbox waiting for the moment to strike. On Lap 2 exiting the final turn, Dickerson caught a good run on Raven down the straight. Dickerson cut to Raven’s outside as the Englishman defended the inside line. The pair went two wide into Turn 1. Still nose to nose into the second turn, Dickerson started to pull a gap leading into Turn 4 to take the point. Raven fell to second, watching Wilson and Blanco dicing for third from his mirrors. Blanco won the battle, but as he challenged Raven for second, trying to add to his weekend podium collection, incidental contact from behind punted Blanco off track in Turn 7 ending his day.
Further down line, starting in 10th, Blanco’s Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport teammate Car propelled off the line, weaving through traffic behind eighth-place starter and season-long championship contender Christian Rasmussen. In one lap, the rookies were in fifth and sixth place and as Blanco wrecked, the pair were instantly in contention for podium position.
At the midway point of the race, Dickerson created a gap from the field. However, the Honda Civic Type R safety car emerged to group the cars after Parker Locke shunted off track following a lost battle with the NJMP Thunderbolt curbing that troubled dozens of drivers throughout the weekend. A yellow flag waived, marginalizing Dickerson’s sizeable lead. Locke continued the race under his own power after receiving a push from safety crews.
Strong off the single-file rolling restart, Wilson challenged Raven for second. Nose to tail into Turn 1, Wilson worked his way to the outside of his fellow countryman entering Turn 3. Squeezing Raven to the limits, Wilson took second. Another yellow dropped on the out-lap, diminishing the opportunity for Raven’s immediate revenge. Suffering mechanical issues from his prior incident, Locke blew a tire on the restart, collecting Group-A Racing driver Cameron O’Connor as his Ligier JS F4 machine skidded to the grass.
On the second restart, Dickerson got the jump on Wilson. Raven and Wilson went two wide into Turn 1. Wilson once again won the battle between the two English drivers and attacked the series leader for first. Using the same move as he did on Raven to take second earlier in the race, Wilson stole first. Not backing down, Dickerson pressured Wilson, waiting for the Jay Howard Driver Development rookie to make a mistake. In a daring pass with limited space, Dickerson in an uncharacteristic move risked it all to take first. The successful gamble not only won Dickerson the race, but also the championship.
“Dakota managed to get me in the end, but the race was good fun. Congratulations to him on winning the championship,” Wilson said. “We still have something to race for at COTA. I’m still looking for my first race win and we’re looking to do that there.”
Car rallied in the final moments to overtake Raven on last lap for his first podium finish of the weekend.
“I was happy to get a good result for the team to end the weekend on a positive note going into COTA,” said Car, who was in podium contention all event. “We had a tough start to the weekend. We had a few clashes with some people and the set up was tricky to find on the car, so for the last races we started 10th. We dialed in the car with some adjustments to the setup which made the handling a lot better. We took advantage of the restarts to make up as many positions as we could. We all did a good job and that’s why we’re standing here.”
Raven crossed the stripe in fourth, Arthur Leist in fifth, Kent Vaccaro charged his way from a near last place start in P29 to finish the race in sixth, Rasmussen took seventh, for the first time in his F4 U.S. career Team BENIK rookie Oliver Clarke finished in points in P8 and series newcomers Alex Mayer and David Porcelli rounded out the top-10.
Round 14 decided the fate for season-long championship contenders, culminating a year of hard work which ended in heartbreak. For the first time in his F4 U.S. career, Vaccaro started on point with Dickerson to his outside. Dickerson flew off the line to take first immediately and lead the entire race from lights to flag.
On Lap 3 on the front straight, Austin Kaszuba attempted to make a pass on the outside of Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark. As the track narrowed into Turn 1, Kaszuba left little racing room and the tires of his Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport car and Perdersen’s No. 24 DirtFish Global Racing Group machine locked, sending both cars smashing into the wall. The drivers were uninjured, but Pedersen sat in the cockpit watching 30 drivers loop around the circuit as his season-long fight for the championship ended in that moment.
“It was disappointing, but that’s racing. The contact was unintentional, and Austin was extremely apologetic,” said Pedersen. “It’s been a tricky weekend to say the least, but we have to focus on COTA. The GRG team and I have good luck there with three wins, so that gives us something to strive for.”
Rasmussen’s chances at the title also ended in Round 14. Starting and finishing in P9 Rasmussen only gained two overall championship points, allowing Dickerson and Raven to pull away.
Wilson finished the race in fourth, Conrad Clark took fifth, Leist, Car, Eduardo Barrichello, Rasmussen and Francisco “Kiko” Porto rounded out the podium.
In a breakout weekend, Vaccaro, who raced all weekend with a broken nose sustained from a basketball game earlier in the week, not only claimed his first pole but was also presented with the Sabelt Hard Charger award after gaining 31 positions over the course of the weekend.
“This weekend was finally the weekend where Skip Barber Momentum F4 and I finally put down all the progress we’ve made together,” Vaccaro said. “The team and I were a complete unit all weekend. I am thankful that I could get results for them, and that they provided me with such a car. But, most importantly, we showed our potential with a pole and a 25-car charge in one race in front of our sponsor, Skip Barber, on their home track. Momentum has become a top-flight F4 team and COTA is looking very bright.”
The F4 U.S. Championship travels to COTA for its flagship event during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix Oct. 19-21. For full results and photos visit F4USChampionship.com.