Jack Hawksworth could not have started his Firestone Indy Lights career in truer form after a championship Pro Mazda season, winning in his debut race at St. Petersburg and following up with a second-place finish in Alabama. From there, it didn't appear things could have gone any worse.
Two last-place finishes and early contact in Indianapolis quickly ate away at his early points lead, but the 22-year-old Englishman seems to have regained his footing.
A year ago in Pro Mazda, Hawksworth was running third at Iowa Speedway, closing in on the leaders when a mechanical failure led to hard contact with the SAFER Barrier. This time out, Hawksworth finished third in a podium sweep for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“I think we felt Iowa owed us one,” Hawksworth said. “Having been quick there in (Pro) Mazda, I was determined to claim the reward in Indy Lights. It’s a short, ultra-fast oval and a track I really enjoy.
“We’d had three really rough races since Barber, but each time we had picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves down and kept working away in the knowledge that eventually our bad luck would turn around. You go through these dips sometimes in racing, but I have a superb team around me so it didn’t knock my confidence at all, and we went to Iowa ready and prepared to do the best job we could.”
Hawksworth claimed his fourth front-row start of the season at Iowa -- his first on an oval in Firestone Indy Lights. He missed pole to championship leader Carlos Munoz by less than two-tenths of a second.
“I managed to get a really good start to grab the initiative,” he said. “I had a great car underneath me, which naturally breeds confidence, and I stayed in front for the first 48 laps. But I think I must have shifted up to sixth gear just a fraction too early, which cost me some momentum and, with it, the lead.
“After getting back on it, I closed the gap right down. But as we threaded our way through lapped traffic, one of the guys I was passing made a mistake and got it all crossed-up, which almost forced me into the wall and allowed the driver in third to overtake me. I had caught the top two again by the end, and as we all flashed across the line to take the checkered flag there was next-to-nothing to choose between us.”
Hawksworth is fifth in the standings, 50 points shy of the championship lead, and is looking forward to the second half of the calendar. That begins with the Pocono 100 on July 6. The following weekend it's off to Toronto, where Hawksworth cruised to victory in 2012.
“I’d really thought we were going to win at Iowa, but on the positive side it was my first oval podium – and it’s good to get that particular monkey off my back," he said. "The remaining races are dominated by tracks that should really suit us – street circuits and road courses, which are much more like ‘home turf’ for me – and there are still a lot of points up for grabs. I’m looking forward to really building upon this result and returning to victory lane. That’s our focus, and then we’ll see where we shake out come season’s end.”