CHARLOTTE (April 26, 2023) – Kyle Kirkwood, one of the first drivers to officially climb the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda (F4 U.S.) and Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda (FR Americas) ladder system, secured his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES win earlier this month at the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Kirkwood, who’s known for his impressive win record and five-consecutive championships on his journey to INDYCAR, started that success in 2017 while competing in F4 U.S.
With 10 wins and 10 poles in 35 F4 U.S. starts, Kirkwood earned the 2017 Driver Championship. However, his stats in that series were nothing compared to his run in FR Americas, where in 18 starts he earned 15 wins and 10 poles en route to his 2018 title.
In the years following his F4 U.S. and FR Americas titles, Kirkwood went on to win championships in USF2000, USF Pro 2000 and INDY NXT (formerly known as Indy Lights) before making his INDYCAR debut with A.J. Foyt Racing in 2022.
This season, Kirkwood joined the legendary Andretti Autosport team where he is piloting the No. 27 AutoNation Honda. Just three rounds into the 2023 season, the 24-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., secured both his first INDYCAR win and pole position.
With all of Kirkwood’s success, we started to wonder what the other FR Americas and F4 U.S. graduates are up to. Check out some of their success stories below:
Racing against Kirkwood on a weekly basis in the INDYCAR SERIES is David Malukas, the 2020 FR Americas Vice Champion. In his second season piloting the No. 18 for Dale Coyne Racing with HMD, Malukas is currently the youngest driver in the INDYCAR paddock. With one podium finish to date, Malukas recorded his career-best second-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway in August 2022.
Also representing FR Americas in the INDYCAR SERIES is 2019 Vice Champion Benjamin Pedersen. Competing in his rookie campaign, Pedersen was hired to wheel the No. 55 for A.J. Foyt Racing.
A standout prospect from FR Americas who is currently sitting on the sidelines is Linus Lundqvist. The 2020 FR Americas Champion, Lundqvist is the reigning INDY NXT Champion—a title he earned with five wins in 14 races in 2022 while competing for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. However, limited available INDYCAR seats in 2023 left the driver on the outside looking in. Despite that, Lundqvist is still finding opportunities. The 24-year-old was recently tagged by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for an INDYCAR Test at Texas Motor Speedway, and was confirmed for the Berlin rookie test with Avalanche Andretti Formula E team.
Kyffin Simpson, the 2021 FR Americas Champion, currently competes in INDY NXT with HMD Motorsports and is signed to a multi-year developmental deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. The 18-year-old was one of the co-drivers in Gradient Racing’s last-to-first run in the GTD class of the 2022 Petit Le Mans.
Ernie Francis Jr. finished third in the 2021 FR Americas Championship standings, but caught the attention of Roger Penske with his three wins that season. Picked up by Force Indy / HMD Motorsports, Francis Jr. is in his second season as the driver of the No. 99 in INDY NXT.
With multiple seasons competing in both F4 U.S. and FR Americas, three-time FR Americas race winner Jacob Abel has steadily climbed the open wheel ladder. Today, the Kentucky native races in INDY NXT for his family-owned Abel Motorsports. A sophomore in the series, Abel started the 2023 season by taking home his career-best finish, a third-place result on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Abel spent the winter racing in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship—a series where he went head-to-head with another F4 U.S. alum, Chloe Chambers. Chambers spent the 2021 season competing in F4 U.S., and has been on the rise ever since. One of 19 drivers selected to compete in the W-Series’ 2022 championship, Chambers was also given an FIA F3 driver test opportunity by Bruno Michel. In February 2023, she became the first female to start a race on the pole and the first female to win a race in the FR Oceania Championship.
Another driver that climbed the ranks through both the F4 U.S. and FR Americas Championship was Dakota Dickerson. Before transitioning to sportscars, the 26-year-old won the F4 U.S. driver championship in 2018, and followed it up by earning the FR Americas title in 2019. The Californian kicked off his 2023 season on the front row of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he joined Andretti Autosport to race around the clock in the LMP3 class.
After winning last year’s FR Americas Championship with 11 wins and 16 podiums in 18 rounds, Raoul Hyman earned a scholarship to compete in SUPER FORMULA’s 2023 season. With support from Honda Performance Development and Honda Racing Corporation, Hyman can be found taking on some of the toughest circuits in Japan while driving the No. 51 for B-Max Racing.
Another alumnus who is representing F4 U.S. and FR Americas abroad is the 2020 F4 U.S. champion, Hunter Yeany. In 2020, Yeany became the youngest champion in F4 U.S. history as he recorded eight wins and 14 podiums en route to the title. The Virginia Beach, Va., native is in his second season of FIA F3 competition driving the No. 21 for Rodin Carlin.
Who will be the next big name in open wheel racing? Could it be someone from the FR Americas paddock? Ryan Shehan (No. 66 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) already has two wins this season and holds an 18-point lead in the championship point standings. Or could it be Shehan’s teammate, New Zealander Callum Hedge, who won the series’ most recent race? Maybe it’s someone from the F4 U.S. paddock, like Jimmie Lockhart who won two of the three races at NOLA Motorsports Park. Or, maybe it’s Patrick Woods-Toth, who’s second in points with three podium finishes after just completing Radford Racing School’s F4 U.S. “karts to cars” scholarship program last December. Only time will tell.