Jul 29, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
As we head to the final month of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, there’s a handful of drivers who seek to turn in that last jaw-dropping performance that will be remembered heading into the offseason.
One such driver is Englishman Jack Hawksworth, who put in a star turn in a cameo TUDOR United SportsCar Championship role this past weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Filling in for Alex Tagliani in the No. 08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 Prototype Challenge car, Hawksworth ran down and passed the team’s sister car, driven by Bruno Junqueira, for a win in his sports car debut.
But he’ll be back to his day job this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, as driver of the No. 98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda. Entering the weekend, Hawksworth sits a perhaps unrepresentative 17th in points – 30 out of 13th.
It’s been an up-and-down rookie season for the 23-year-old from Bradford, who was a last-minute nomination to the Bryan Herta/Steve Newey-led entry – ironically, where he also replaced Tagliani for the full-season effort.
Hawksworth made a dynamic first impression with three Firestone Fast Six appearances in his first four tries, and a total of four top-10 grid efforts in the first six races.
Yet in the last eight, Hawksworth hasn’t bettered 15th on the grid, and he’s also had to bounce back following his Pocono practice accident where he incurred a myocardial contusion and missed that race.
His results didn’t match the pace in the first six races – a seventh at the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis came after leading a race-high 31 laps, and it was one of only two top-15 finishes.
As the qualifying has dropped off, his race results have improved – Hawksworth hasn’t finished worse than 15th since in the last eight, while posting three top-six results and his first podium with third in Race 2 at Houston.
“I think I’ve just been understanding the races more,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk ahead of the Toronto weekend. “I wouldn’t say there’s been one thing where I improved this or that since the start of the year. At this point, it’s more knowing the races, the sport, the strategy a little better.”
That’s in part why his Houston podium was validation both in his own confidence, and the decision Herta and Newey made to enlist their single car to a rookie.
“We’d been quick on a number of occasions, and we should have got it done earlier and didn’t through whatever reason,” Hawksworth explained. “We struggled on pace in Houston, and while race one was good, race two we weren’t that quick. We had some great strategy to get in the mix, then we found the pace to get it done.
“It wasn’t a weight off my shoulder per se, but it was a relief in some sense to get a result.”
The result was particularly impressive as Hawksworth had held off Juan Pablo Montoya and an eager Charlie Kimball for the position.
Hawksworth has punched above his weight as a rookie on a single-car team – which in some respects, mirrors what team owner Herta did some 20 years ago, when he drove a partial schedule for A.J. Foyt before getting injured in Toronto.
“He’s been so good to work with, and yeah, Bryan’s been through a similar thing as he came up through the ranks,” Hawksworth explained. “I think we work well together. It means a lot to come in knowing the quality of the personnel is so high, from the engineering through the rest of the crew. It helps the learning process.”
Had Hawksworth not advanced into IndyCar after a difficult Indy Lights season, where he won three street course races but struggled on ovals and only finished fourth in points, he may have given up the dream to race altogether.
“It really was that close,” he admitted. “It didn’t look like there was that much out there. I’d honestly thought I was done.”
And this is where Hawksworth exhibits a confidence that borders on bravado, but speaks to an inner will to win rather than a simple “happy to be here” attitude.
“But I came in here and even though it was late, yeah, I expected to be quick; I always have been in whatever I’ve done,” he said. “Without being arrogant, I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t been fast. I want to be quickest every time out in any formula. Sometimes you’re disappointed or want more.
“I’m racing to win; I have no interest in being here if I don’t have a chance. If it wasn’t right, I wasn’t gonna do it.”
He has the chops and he’s had the determination to want to succeed. Given the level of parity in IndyCar this season, and fresh off the momentum of a win at Indianapolis this past weekend, it would not be a major surprise to see Hawksworth bag his first IndyCar win before the year’s out.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:15 PM EST
Marco Andretti set for a new number while Andretti Autosport continues to sort out the rest of its IndyCar lineup.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
After boldly stating in 1999 that “all that can be achieved has been achieved”, Toyota will return to the WRC upon the next regulation change.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
A full download of all posts from NASCAR Media Tour on NBCSports.com.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:30 AM EST
Australian driver does not feel under any added pressure in 2015 despite appearing to be the new team leader.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
First video from Gridiron Challenge now up, in advance of the full event set to air tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:51 AM EST
The No. 10 WTR Corvette DP reclassified to last in P after drive-time violation at Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM EST
After a miserable 2014, Raikkonen hopes that the new season and a new car will bring better fortunes for Ferrari.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:45 AM EST
Italian Luca Filippi will get the nod to drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet alongside Ed Carpenter this season.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:40 AM EST
Four-time world champion is not expecting immediate success at Maranello.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
Big day of coverage for NASCAR on NBC today, with 6.5 hours of coverage slated.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:15 AM EST
Karam, Larson showcase talent in Rolex 24 drives for CGR.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Brazilian driver steps up to F1 with Sauber in 2015 after three years in GP2.
Jan 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EST
Former Caterham driver announces that he is moving to the Japanese single seater championship for 2015.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:14 AM EST
A new era begins at Maranello with the launch of the 2015 car.
Jan 30, 2015, 5:02 AM EST
After a disastrous 2014, Sauber aims to hit back this year with a new image and two new drivers.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
When he went looking for a new crew chief to replace the soon-to-be departing Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ultimately didn’t have to look very far.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne looks for success with new crew chief… and another Super Bowl for his Seahawks.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway was arrested last week and charged with indecent exposure and lewdness.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
Conor Daly finally set for an IndyCar test this offseason, with SPM.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
After coming so close last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015 — and he’s bringing his brass knuckles to give him a hand.
- NASCAR Media Tour Content Recap: All posts, one place 0
- Gridiron Challenge: NASCAR drivers take football stars for a spin (VIDEO) 0
- Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony headlines 6.5 hours of NASCAR on NBCSN 0
- Ferrari reveals SF15-T for 2015 Formula 1 season 2
- Sauber aims to beat the blues of 2014 with C34’s launch 0
- Track executive arrested, charged with lewdness with 19-year-old 0
- Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24 8