Kyle Kirkwood reminded the world why he is the 2018 F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda regional champion after winning the inaugural season finale at the Circuit of The Americas during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend. In the closest finish of the season, Kirkwood, who suffered substantial front wing damage at the beginning of the race, took the checkered less than three tenths of a seconds before Benjamin Pedersen. With a win in the opening round on Saturday, Kirkwood swept his fourth F3 Americas weekend of the season, adding 15 total wins to his season record.
While Kirkwood locked up the Driver’s Championship in F3 Americas before the season finale, to go along with his 2017 F4 U.S. Championship and his 2018 USF2000 title, his two F3 Americas wins at COTA gave him an incredible 27 wins in 31 starts across USF2000 and F3 Americas in just one year.
“It’s a surreal feeling being on the top step of the F1 podium,” Kirkwood said, who won the closing race in F4 last season in COTA to claim the 2017 title. “Taking that parade lap with thousands of fans cheering, adds to the experience. Thank you F1 for allowing us to share this awesome experience with you and thank you to Abel Motorsports for giving me such a great car.”
Thousands of fans were on their feet cheering as Pedersen contested pole-sitter Kirkwood for the lead. Lap after lap, wheels nearly touching on several junctures, Pedersen edged his bright orange No. 24 DirtFish Global Racing Group machine closer for the overtake. For 10 laps, Kirkwood defended his race line, only giving Pedersen a wing lead at one point. The battle continued down to the checkered with Kirkwood barely seizing the win over Pedersen.
“The season finale race in front of Formula 1 was the best race of the season for us,” said Pedersen. “We pressured Kyle the whole race and stayed on his gearbox until we started to pull away from the rest of the field. Then on the las lap, we really started to battle and actually went side by side all the way from Turn 19 all the way to Esses. From what the fans have told me, it was some of the best racing they saw all weekend. It’s nice to race against someone I know I can stay clean with so it was an enjoyable battle despite not getting the win at the end. I look forward to more moments and battles like that in the future.”
The cheers and gasps continued as Parker Locke, who chased Jacob Abel for most of the round, made a calculated pass on the inside to claim the last spot on the podium.
“This was a great weekend for me, being my home race, I wanted to put on a good show and get good results,” said Locke, who also placed third on Saturday. “Getting two third place finishes and getting to stand on the Formula 1 podium in front of my home crowd was a dream come true. I will never forget that moment. All of my hard work and dedication to the sport is finally beginning to pay off. I can’t wait to see what the 2019 season has in store for us.”
Abel crossed the finish line in fourth with John Paul Southern rounding out the top five. Southern also earned the Sabelt Hard Charger Award after making the most passes over the weekend.
The 2018 F3 Americas Vice Champion Baltazar Leguizamon missed the checkered after suffering a mechanical failure on the reconnaissance lap. The Global Racing Group driver watched from the pits as his GRG teammates fought for podium.
“Some days you have good race days, other times they are bad, that’s just how racing goes,” said Leguizamon. “I just have to focus on that we had a great year finishing with two poles, two wins, 15 podiums and FIA Super License Points.”
The top eight F3 Americas drivers earn FIA Super License Points to aid in their advancement to Formula 1. F3 Americas is one of the only junior-professional series in the United States to offer its drivers Super License Points.
While the top two spots in the inaugural regional championship were decided before COTA, the final spot wasn’t determined until the checkered dropped on Saturday. Pedersen, who finished on the podium 10 of the 11 races he entered, secured third in the single-chassis, single-engine championship.
The second season of the F3 Americas championship will kick off in the spring of 2019. The full schedule will be released at the PRI show in December. For photos and full COTA results, visit F3Americas.com.