Event Program: 2023 New Jersey SpeedTour
Race Preview: FR Americas & F4 U.S.
Crossed Flags at New Jersey Motorsports Park
Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda (FR Americas) and Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda (F4 U.S.) take on New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) for Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2023 season. This event marks FR Americas’ third trip to the 2.25-mile circuit, and F4 U.S.’ fourth. Last year, NJMP was home to the closest finishes of the season for both F4 U.S. and FR Americas. In F4 U.S., Lochie Hughes unofficially beat Ryan Shehan across the line by 0.038-seconds; however, a post-race penalty dropped Hughes in the final results, giving Shehan his first-career win. In FR Americas, Dylan Tavella edged Raoul Hyman by 0.089-seconds to win Race 3 of the weekend, marking the closest margin of victory of the season.
With FR Americas and F4 U.S. joined this weekend by Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and Formula Race Promotions, the New Jersey Lottery SpeedTour is certain to have something for everyone.
FR Americas Championship Powered By Honda
Racing for a SUPER FORMULA Scholarship
Callum Hedge (No. 17 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) is on a roll in the 2023 championship battle, amassing seven-straight wins after a second-consecutive weekend sweep at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month. This weekend, the 19-year-old has the opportunity to tie—or even break—the current record of eight-consecutive FR Americas victories, which was set by Kyle Kirkwood in 2018 and later tied by Linus Lundqvist in 2020.
Despite the streak, Hedge only holds a 25-point advantage over Ryan Shehan (No. 66 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3). Shehan won the opening two races of the season, and is the only driver to finish on the podium in every race this year. Cooper Becklin (No. 19 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Liger JS F3) remains third in the championship hunt after eight podium finishes, including a career-best finish of second in Round 2 at NOLA Motorsports Park. The 2023 FR Americas championship-winning driver will earn a scholarship from Honda Performance Development and Honda Racing Corporation to compete in the 2024 SUPER FORMULA season. Valued at up to $600,000, the scholarship covers a substantial portion of the cost to run a full season, and includes an engine supply to run with a Honda-powered team selected by Honda.
New Girl in Town
Nicole Havrda (No. 6 Valley Kitchens / Farrow / Colonial Countertops / Hardwoods / Road to Racing Ligier JS F3) will make her FR Americas debut this weekend at NJMP while driving for Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport. With a background in karting, the 17-year-old Canadian has completed an extensive test program, logging more than 40 days in a Ligier JS F3 chassis. She joins the series from Formula Pro USA 3 Western Championship, where she currently leads the standings after being undefeated through the first six races this season.
Jibbitz™ Challenge Providing Motivation for Hedge
Callum Hedge has more than just trophies and championship points on the line this weekend at NJMP. With each checkered flag earned on the track, the New Zealander will also earn a checkered flag Jibbitz™ charm from his manager, former INDYCAR team owner and current director of Tasman Motorsport Group, Steve Horne. A longtime Crocs fan, Hedge’s love of the shoe is widely known among his friends and family. When Horne and his wife, Christine, spotted the checkered flag Jibbitz while traveling, they knew they needed to get them for the driver. With four charms already decorating the holes of his Crocs, Hedge needs to square up with Horne for the additional three checkered flags he’s owed for his seven FR Americas victories this year.
Summer Balancing Act for Westling and Hewitt
With the temperatures heating up, so too is the balancing act of life on and off the track for Oliver Westling (No. 1 JENSEN Ligier JS F3) and Max Hewitt (No. 39 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3). Westling, a junior Entrepreneurship major at Chico State University, is spending his summer interning as an investment analyst. Working closely with real estate agents, Westling is helping them analyze properties and their values, while still keeping an eye on his racing and maintaining his training regimen with at least two training sessions per day. Meanwhile, Hewitt, a senior at Baylor University, is taking six credit hours this month studying communication theory and rhetoric, balancing both his school life and pursuing his passion. The 22-year-old is set to graduate next May with a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communications and a minor in Entrepreneurship.
Shehan Ready to be Put to the Test
After adding Keller Williams President Marc King and his wife Kristen to his list of Pathfinder supporters, Ryan Shehan inked a partnership with the Harrison Noel team, an Austin-based luxury real estate brand, earlier this season. The partnership on the track led to even greater collaboration off the track, as Shehan began studying to become a real estate agent. With the summer break for FR Americas just around the corner, Shehan will turn his focus to taking the Michigan Real Estate License exam and will hopefully enter VIRginia International Raceway in October as the series’ newest-licensed real estate agent.
F4 U.S. Championship Powered By Honda
FR Americas Scholarship on the Line
NJMP officially kicks off the second half of the 2023 F4 U.S. season, as three race weekends are the books and only three more remain before a champion is named. Drivers have flocked to F4 U.S. from five continents, nine countries and 16 states across America. With a scholarship to compete in the 2024 FR Americas season on the line, the championship battle is slowly taking shape among the nearly 40 entrants that have launched off the starting grid this season. To date, 10 different drivers have stepped on the podium, while five drivers have occupied the top step.
As a three-time winner and podium finisher in seven of nine races, Patrick Woods-Toth (No. 27 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4) currently leads the championship charge. After winning two rounds at Road America, the 19-year-old added another victory to his tally in the series’ most recent round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and now holds a 42.5-point lead over the competition. Michael Costello (No. 19 Jay Howard Driver Development / CSU One Cure / Lucas Oil / LHP Ligier JS F4) currently sits second in the standings after earning his second-career F4 U.S. win in Race 2 at Mid-Ohio. Australian Jesse Lacey (No. 16 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4) is currently ranked third, just 15.5 points behind Costello. The 16-year-old has four podiums in nine races, but with three second-place results, he’s still searching for his first F4 U.S. win. Consistency has helped Alex Berg (No. 08 MySim.ca / Rohde & Liesenfeld / Easy Drift / Penn Elcom Online / Dae Systems Ligier JS F4) chip away at the competition. With a career-best second-place finish during the Mid-Ohio weekend, seven top fives, and no finishes outside the top nine, Berg is just three points behind Lacey and still well within the championship hunt.
At the conclusion of the season, the 2023 F4 U.S. Champion will be given the opportunity to move to FR Americas in 2024 with support from Ligier Automotive, Hankook Tires and Parella Motorsports Holdings. In addition, the champion will also receive $25,000 from Honda Performance Development, along with several other prizes.
SEE MORE: 2023 F4 U.S. Driver’s Points Standings
Instagram Takeover with Michael Costello
Michael Costello will take over the @F4USChampionship
New Jersey Native Alex Benavitz Races at Home
Alex Benavitz (No. 14 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4) was born in Morristown, N.J., just two hours north of NJMP. While he has since relocated to Naples, Fla., the 25-year-old will have plenty of extended family and friends attending to cheer him on at the New Jersey Lottery SpeedTour. The weekend will be far from Benavitz’s first trip to NJMP, having attended races at the track as a young child. He returned in July 2021 when he competed on the Lightning course with the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series.
JENSEN Drivers Stay Sharp While Testing
Since the last round, JENSEN has been busy preparing their F4 U.S. drivers for the next step in their careers. Everett Stack (No. 1 JENSEN Ligier JS F4) has been diligently testing a Ligier JS F3 car, logging seven days on tracks like Chicago Autobahn, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Summit Point, and even NJMP, with an eye on moving up to FR Americas before the end of the season. Similarly, his teammate Landan Matriano-Lim (No. 2 JENSEN Ligier JS F4) just strapped in to an F3 car for the first time earlier this week, testing the car at NJMP.
Carl Bennett Returns Stateside
After winning the 2023 season opener at NOLA Motorsports Park, Carl Bennett (No. 9 Gonella Racing Ligier JS F4) missed the most recent round at Mid-Ohio while racing around the world. The driver has seen checkered flags in both Spain and Brazil, while gaining experience in the F4 Spanish Championship and the F4 Brazilian Championship. Following the F4 U.S. round at Road America, Bennett flew to Spain to compete at Motorland Aragon, before heading to Barcelona to take in the F1 Spanish Grand Prix. From there, he went to Circuito de Navarra for a race that was the same weekend as Mid-Ohio. Before returning to the United States, Bennett stopped in Brazil where his new management company, A14, found an opportunity for him to compete in the F4 Brazilian Championship at Interlagos. In his debut weekend, the 18-year-old earned a podium finish in wet conditions, in addition to two other top-10 finishes and a pole.
Drivers Looking to Benefit From Past NJMP Experience
A total of four drivers in this weekend’s field have past F4 U.S. race experience at NJMP. Alex Berg, Carl Bennett, Michael Boyiadzis (No. 3 Jay Howard Driver Development / CSU One Cure / Lucas Oil / LHP Ligier JS F4), and Tyke Durst (No. 17 Gonella Racing Ligier JS F4) all raced on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt course with F4 U.S. just last season. While Bennett recorded a career-best (at the time) finish during the weekend, it was actually Berg who had the best showing of the four drivers. Throughout the weekend’s three races, Berg recorded two fourth-place results and one fifth-place finish. Now searching for his first-career win in F4 U.S., Berg is sure to be a force this weekend.