Hughes clinches F4 U.S. crown as he and Ping win COTA races

Gavin Baker Photography

Hughes clinches F4 U.S. crown as he and Ping win COTA races

North American Racing

Hughes clinches F4 U.S. crown as he and Ping win COTA races

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With the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda (F4 U.S.) drivers’ championship title on the line at Circuit of The Americas, Lochie Hughes (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development / CSU One Cure / Lucas Oil / Pelican Ligier JS F4) took the win in Race 2 on Thursday afternoon. Fighting back from a sixth-place finish in Race 1 (see below), Hughes scored maximum points to enter the final race of the weekend in control of the standings.

“That was a pretty fun race,” said Hughes recounting the event. “We started P6, so we just chipped away at it one by one, trying to get to the front. I was surprised with the pace we had. We made a few changes on the car after Race 1 and they worked quite well. The car felt really well. We were able to just hit our marks and work our way forward. I caught up to Bryson (Morris) and passed him into Turn 1, and then led the rest of the race from there.”

Rolling off sixth, Hughes was on a mission from the drop of the green flag. Picking up two positions on the opening lap, Hughes moved into third by the completion of lap two and into second one lap later. All that was left in front of Hughes was championship rival Bryson Morris (No. 39 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4). Hughes caught Morris entering Turn 1 while working lap five, completed the pass and never looked back.

Meanwhile, Noah Ping (No. 65 Velocity Racing Development Ligier JS F4), the other driver still in contention for the championship, faced adversity despite starting from the pole position. As the field worked lap seven, Ping had dropped to the fifth position before contact sent him into a gravel trap. Unable to continue or complete 90% of the laps, his finish was not classified in the event.

The provisional results showed Hughes leading Morris to the checkered flag, followed by Andre Castro (No. 8 Future Star Racing Ligier JS F4). However, in a stewards’ decision after the race, it was determined that Morris crossed the blend line at pit exit to gain a position. A five-second penalty was assessed, which dropped Morris to seventh in the final running order. As a result, Castro moved up to second on the final results, and Alex Berg (No. 08 Penn Elcom / Lordco / Cedar Coast / Kirby Studios / L.A. Prep Ligier JS F4) finished third.

The decision also affected the championship standings, as Morris dropped to 30 points behind Hughes, which locked Hughes in as the 2022 F4 U.S. champion.

A full rundown of the official results from Race 2 are available here.

Race 1: Ping extends title race with last-lap win

Noah Ping kept his F4 U.S. championship hopes alive with a last-lap pass for the win in Race 1 at Circuit of The Americas.

“I had a good teammate,” said Ping after climbing from the car. “He really won this race. Luckily, I’m back in this championship. I was told Lochie (Hughes) finished sixth, and he needed to finish fifth or worse in every race (to keep me in the battle). We still have hope. I have a great teammate. He must’ve made a mistake; but still, he’s a great guy. I want to thank Jacob Loomis and the Velocity Racing Development boys.”

Ping (No. 65 Velocity Racing Development Ligier JS F4) started from the fourth position, but quickly set his sights forward. With his championship rivals all around him, the Buford, Ga. native first picked off Bryson Morris (No. 39 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4) to take over the third position before they completed the second lap. By lap four, he passed Lochie Hughes (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development / CSU One Cure / Lucas Oil / Pelican Ligier JS F4) to overtake second. From there, he set out to chase down Loomis (No. 24 Velocity Racing Development Ligier JS F4). Loomis, making his first F4 U.S. start since 2018, was clear sailing in front of the field after starting from the pole position, but a mistake in Turn 13 on the final lap allowed Ping to sneak by for the win.

After the race, the championship battle was provisionally down to just three contenders, as Ryan Shehan (No. 66 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4) was eliminated from contention. It appeared as though Ping would be 27 points back, with Hughes and Morris tied for the lead.

However, a series of post-race stewards decisions had big impact, as Morris was ruled to have exceeded track limits and issued a five-second penalty. As a result, he was officially scored sixth and earned only eight points, giving Hughes the points lead.

With the decision, Ethan Barker (No. 12 Velocity Racing Development Ligier JS F4) was moved into the third position on the official results.

A full run-down of the official results from Race 1 are available here.

F4 U.S. will contest its final race of 2022 tomorrow morning with Race 3 of the Mission Foods Austin SpeedTour. Lights out is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. CT. For updates, follow F4 U.S. on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, or use Race Monitor to follow live timing and scoring.

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