In just the second event in his open-wheel career, Braden Eves of Gahanna, Ohio, claimed his maiden victory in the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda penultimate event at Circuit of the Americas Saturday.
Kyle Kirkwood of Jupiter, Florida, who clinched the season championship earlier in the weekend, finished P2 for the second time at COTA and Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, rounded out the top-three after scoring a pair of wins on Friday. Eves, Kirkwood and Pedersen were the only competitors to visit the podium during Event 6. The trio exchanged top-three standings in Rounds 16-18.
“It feels great to win my first race in a car,” said Eves who scored a P1, P2 and P3 finish for the weekend. “It is a big confidence boost as we go into the F1 weekend knowing the car is fast enough to win.”
The Jay Howard’s Motorsport Driver Development pilot started Race 3 in the second row behind pole-sitter Dakota Dickerson of San Diego and Kirkwood of Jupiter, Florida. As Kirkwood started to close-in on Dickerson on the outside, Eves, who got a great start off the line, slid in between the No. 8 of Kirkwood and Dickerson’s Kiwi Motorsport No. 86 car. The cars went three-wide on the front straight. As racing room reduced, Kirkwood’s car slightly clipped Eves causing a domino effect which bumped Eves into Dickerson. Eves surrendered his advance, suffering minor front-wing damage. Pedersen, who started Race 3 in P4, watched as the front runners battled, waiting to make his move. As Eves backed off Kirkwood and Dickerson, Pedersen took P3, holding Eves off for several laps.
The front-wing damage caused Eves’ car to understeer.
“I needed clean air when I was driving,” Eves said. “I would try to get behind someone to get by as soon as I could because I wanted that air on the front wing, but when I got to second, the draft didn’t benefit me as much, so I knew I had to take first fast.”
Eves approached the back straight with Kirkwood and Pedersen in front of him. Eves picked off Pedersen, knocking the Global Racing Group driver to third. Eves set his eyes on Kirkwood with a slingshot move, passing the point-leader on the outside to take first place. Hitting his marks, Eves created a gap between himself and Kirkwood to finish the race with nearly a two and a half second lead.
Close, hard racing wasn’t isolated to the front-runners as the Texas natives put on a show for their home state. Timo Reger of Houston, made the most gains in Race 3, charging from 28th position to finish just outside the points in 13th. Austin Kaszuba of Burleson, Texas, who served a 10-grid spot penalty for causing a red flag in Race 2, started 30th. He finished the race 18th. Lawson Nagel of Fort Worth, Texas, jumped 10 positions as the Miller Vinatieri Leguizamon Motorsports driver started nearly last in 31st to finish 21st. Parker Locke of San Antonio collected eight positions, starting from 24th to finish mid-pack in 16th. Baltazar Leguizamon of Buenos Aires, Argentina, earned the JRi Shocks Hard Charger Award for improving 27 places for in the weekend.
The F4 U.S. Championship returns to COTA during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend Oct. 20-22 for its final two races of the season. Fans can view full weekend results at F4USChampionship.com.