All photos: Team USA Scholarship

U.S. F4 champ Kirkwood’s awesome Austin F1/F4 experience

Leave a comment

Kyle Kirkwood captured this year’s F4 U.S. Championship Powered by Honda for Cape Motorsports, the series of which concluded at Circuit of The Americas last month in Austin.

Kirkwood, the 2016 Team USA Scholarship recipient, recaps that weekend for F4 racing on the F1 weekend, below in his latest Team USA Scholarship blog.

F4 US Championship/Rounds 19-20
Circuit of The Americas, Austin, TX USA
Sunday 22 October 2017
Meet and greet with Kyle Kirkwood
World Copyright: Gavin Baker/LAT Images

Hey everyone, what a year it has been. This has been by far the most successful and enjoyable season of my career so far. We started off with 40 positions of penalties — what a disappointing situation, but the setback only ignited a fire in me. Cape Motorsports and I gave it our all to get back on top, and we did just that. We came back to sweep two consecutive weekends, take nine wins, 15 podiums and nine poles throughout the season! I really couldn’t have asked for more.

The F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda drivers have been so fortunate to run in support of amazing series, including IMSA, NASCAR, Trans-Am, World Endurance Championship and even Formula 1! It has been incredible to say the least. My favorite race weekend was this past one at the Circuit of The Americas Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. It was actually my first time at an F1 event and it really blew me away! There were so many amazing opportunities and I stayed very busy the entire weekend.

As soon as I arrived at the track Thursday, I could feel the magnitude of the event from the thousands of fans and hospitalities scattered throughout the giant CoTA facility. I instantly made my way to the F1 paddock to view the cars – seeing them on TV doesn’t do them ANY justice. I then had the opportunity to be amongst the representatives during the launch of 2018 F3 Americas, speaking in front of many FIA members including Charlie Whiting! I typically don’t get nervous anymore but for THAT I definitely was.

That night I was invited to the annual “Buxton Bash” hosted by NBCSN’s Will Buxton along with Speed City Broadcasting. This event was at a quaint open-roof club in downtown Austin. When I arrived there, the line stretched across two city blocks and around a corner. Fortunately, I was dragged in through the fans by Speed City’s own Jonathan Green. I was only expecting to socialize with the fans and the other F4 drivers who arrived, but about 30 minutes later I found myself on stage with Will Buxton addressing the crowd immediately after Santino Ferrucci, Lance Stroll and Romain Grosjean! My excitement was through the roof and, honestly, I could hardly sleep that night.

Friday was our first day on track and it was time to get serious. The previous event at CoTA with WEC was a bit of a struggle and we fought to hang on to top-three finishes. Cape Motorsports and I had a whole month to analyze what we lacked and I was extremely confident with the car going into the first practice. The conditions in practice were very strange. It was wet early on and the curbs were freshly painted. We ended up just outside the top 10 but we made changes while the track was at its peak, so I was still positive we had everything right. In Qualifying our pace showed quickly when we jumped up to the top around Lap 5 and stayed there until the checkered flag came out.

F4 US Championship/Rounds 19-20
Circuit of The Americas, Austin, TX USA
Sunday 22 October 2017
Kyle Kirkwood (Winner), Dakota Dickerson (second) and Skylar Robinson (third) on the podium after round 20
World Copyright: Gavin Baker/LAT Images

Starting on the pole for Race One, I could feel the energy from all the fans on the grid. I looked left to see Charlie Whiting, Zak Brown and Michael Andretti standing trackside with myself on the massive TV screens all around the track. This was an extremely nerve-racking moment, but as soon as the lights came on I was back in the zone. I got the jump and held the lead for over half the race. I fought off Benjamin Pedersen, who nearly swept the last event at WEC, for many laps but he snuck around the outside of me on the back straight with about five laps to go. I finished the race in P2. Luckily for us, a huge cold front came through bringing rain to create uneven track conditions for Race Two. By the time of the race, it was intermediate conditions and all the drivers were forced to run rain tires. Our setup was absolutely perfect for the conditions and I was able to get the jump from our off-pole starting spot and consistently pulled a larger gap every lap till the end. We stretched an over 10-second lead by the checkered flag! It felt amazing to take the win in front all of the F1 teams and fans just hours before the USGP.

The F4 races may have been done but it was time to watch my first ever Formula 1 race. I stood in Turn Five for the start and the noise coming from the crowds in Turn One and across the track were louder than the actual cars! To add to my incredible weekend, about halfway through the race I walked down to the paddock to meet with the Speed City crew and they gave me the chance to announce the last few laps over the track audio! So, about 200,000 people were hearing my input on the track and strategies from a driver’s perspective. I actually announced Max Verstappen’s last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen for third!

What a weekend to cap off the year. Huge thank-you Cape Motorsports, Firstex, Bell Helmets, Team USA Scholarship, SAFE is FAST, and my family because none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for ALL of them.

Thanks for reading — I’ll keep you updated on what’s next!

Kyle

Cooper Webb beats Ken Roczen in Arlington Supercross photo finish

Leave a comment

Cooper Webb scored his fourth win of the season in a photo finish over Ken Roczen in Round 7 of Supercross competition.

It was a remarkable end to a barn burner race.

Roczen was still looking for his first win since San Diego in 2017. He took the lead from Eli Tomac on Lap 4 as the pair came out of the whoops. Roczen held the lead for the next 21 circuits. On Lap 4, Webb was mired in sixth – the worst position among the top four contenders that entered the event with only two points separating them.

Webb mounted his charge at that point, meticulously picking off the competition until he was embroiled in a heated battle with Marvin Musquin. Webb knew that his only shot at catching Roczen was to get past Musquin as quickly as possible, but he could not run the risk of taking his teammate down. Webb passed Musquin on Lap 19 and began picking at Roczen’s lead.

With time off the clock and the final lap underway. Webb was on Roczen’s back tire hoping to force a mistake. When that did not come, Webb dove into the final turn to get side-by-side with Roczen and break the leader’s momentum. The two crossed under the checkers in a virtual tie. Webb beat Roczen by two-hundredths of a second – the closest margin in Supercross history.

Feld Entertainment Inc.

“That was just insanity,” Webb told NBCSN after the race. “It was clicking I guess.”

Webb’s win gave him the points lead and the red plate.

Musquin rounded out the top three to keep the points battle tight. This is Musquin’s fifth consecutive finish of either second or third.

On Lap 1, the race had a completely different storyline. Tomac took the early lead ahead of Roczen and Musquin. Webb was seventh and it appeared he would be the first of the top four to blink.

Instead, it was Tomac that bobbled. He went down on Lap 6 and kept falling until he landed 12th. This was the first time he’s failed to finish among the top 10. The disappointing finish dropped him 16 points off the pace, fourth in the standings.

Blake Baggett and Joey Savatgy rounded out the top five.

Zach Osborne’s return to Supercross was not what he expected. Osborne was running eighth when he got crossed up and went over the tough blocks on Lap 8. He could not return to the race and finished 22nd after a dramatic showing in his heat.

Complete Results
Points Standings

250s

Round 2 of 250s East started where Round 1 ended – with Austin Forkner in the lead. This was the first time in more than a decade that a rider had perfect nights in the first two rounds. Forkner had to overcome mistakes in timed practice after going off track once and nearly landing on another rider on a separate occasion. That contact might have ended his night before it began.

Instead, Forkner posted a lap of 50.899 – his fastest of the night – on the second trip around the track in the Feature. As he got into traffic, the lap times slipped into the 52-second range.

Helping Forkner to his dominant win was the fact that no one seemed to want second place.

Chase Sexton was Forkner’s closest competition for the first half of the race. He stalled and lost second to Jordon Smith at the midway point. On Lap 15, he went down and fell to fourth. Now 13 seconds behind the leader, his chance of winning was done. Sexton recovered to finish third and land on the final step on the podium

On Lap 18, Jordon Smith laid his bike down while running second; he ultimately crossed under the checkers fourth.

Their mistakes allowed Justin Cooper to climb into the runner-up position and secure the second position in the points standings.

Martin Davalos rounded out the top five.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Ken Roczen led every lap on his way to a 4.8-second win over Justin Hill. … Joey Savatgy rounded out the top three. … Zach Osborne got off to a tough start on his return to Supercross. He went down on Lap 1 after burying the front wheel. Osborne almost saved his bike, but got run over from behind by Aaron Plessinger. Osborne fell to 18th on the first lap; improved to 15th by Lap 2. He kept rolling, picking off one spot per lap. Osborne grabbed the final transfer spot from Kyle Chisholm just as time ran off the clock.

450 Heat 2: Cole Seely took the lead from Chad Reed on Lap 1 and held it to the checkers. After Roczen took the Heat 2 win, the battle for the championship was previewed in Heat 2, however; Eli Tomac caught up to Seely’s back wheel, but came up about a half second short. … Cooper Webb showed he is not going to be overshadowed in the playoff battle with a third-place finish. … Marvin Musquin finished seventh.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Justin Barcia flat out dominated the LCQ with a 12.5-second win over Alex Ray. … Kyle Chisholm finished third. Ronnie Stewart lost the final transfer spot to Scott Champion on the last lap – but not for long. Champion went down as he was headed for the checkers and gave the position back to Stewart. … Tyler Bowers was disqualified before the beginning of the LCQ for running into Barcia during their heat race.

250 Heat 1: Mitchell Oldenburg blazed into the lead with the holeshot and grabbed a 1.4 second lead by the end of Lap 1. It was Oldenburg’s first heat win of the season. … He held that advantage through the end of the heat and beat Justin Cooper and Alex Martin. … With time running off the clock, Lorenzo Locurcio took the final transfer spot of ninth.

250 Heat 2: Austin Forkner and Jordon Smith went side by side on Lap 5 with Forkner blasting past on the whoops to win the heat. … Smith held on for second with Martin Davalos rounding out the top three. … Kyle Peters almost provided the drama of the night exiting Turn 1. He got wiggly in a big pack and bunched up the riders from seventh on back. Peters recovered to finish fifth. … The final transfer spot came down to a three-man battle between Brandon Hartranft (eighth), Joshua Cartwright (ninth) and Steven Clarke just missing in 10th. … Joey Crown joined Clarke in the LCQ after finishing 11th.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Kyle Cunningham was seventh at the end of Lap 1, but he picked up two positions per lap until he was third on Lap 3. He took the lead on Lap 5 and held it till the end over Ramyller Alves and Steven Clarke. … TJ Albright grabbed the holeshot, but lost the lead to Clarke on Lap 3. He fell back to fourth and was under heavy pressure from Jayce Pennington until the two riders made contact with on the final lap. Albright survived to finish fourth; Pennington finished a distant 16th.

Points Leaders

450s
Cooper Webb (150) (4 wins)
Ken Roczen (148)
Marvin Musquin (144)
Eli Tomac (134) (1 win)
Dean Wilson (110)

250s West
Adam Cianciarulo (114 points) (3 wins)
Shane McElrath (106) (1)
Colt Nichols (104) (1)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250s East
Austin Forkner (52 points) (2 wins)
Justin Cooper (44)
Jordon Smith (42)
Chase Sexton (39)
Alex Martin (34)
Mitchell Oldenburg (34)

Top 5s

450 top 5s
Ken Roczen: 7
Marvin Musquin: 6
Eli Tomac: 5
Cooper Webb: 5
Blake Baggett: 3
Dean Wilson: 2
Joey Savatgy: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Barcia: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Chad Reed: 1
Justin Brayton: 1

250 West top 5s
Adam Cianciarulo: 5
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 4
RJ Hampshire: 3
Dylan Ferrandis: 3
James Decotis: 2
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1

250 East top 5s
Austin Forkner: 2
Jordon Smith: 2
Justin Cooper: 2
Chase Sexton: 2
Alex Martin: 1
Martin Davalos: 1

Next race: February 23, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter