ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- What's that about being in the right place at the right time? Jack Hawksworth was in such position in the season-opening St. Petersburg 100 on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.
Hawksworth, who earned the 2012 Star Mazda Championship, won in his Firestone Indy Lights debut for Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, saying thank you in passing Carlos Munoz and Gabby Chaves along the way.
Munoz, the Sunoco Pole Award recipient in the No. 26 Dialy-Ser-Andretti Autosport car, was battling Chaves in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car entering Turn 1 of Lap 11 when they made contact. Hawksworth made his way around the scene to take the lead, which he held the remainder of the 45-lap race.
"It’s got a lot more horsepower, it’s a lot of fun to drive and difficult to drive," Hawksworth said of the Firestone Indy Lights car. "That’s why I’m so fortunate to be with these guys and working with such a great team. They’ve helped me develop over the winter and today I nearly scooted off on the first corner and they gave me a really, really good car. What a great way to start the season."
Hawksworth led Peter Dempsey across the finish line by 4.9 seconds for the fourth consecutive victory at St. Petersburg for a Schmidt Peterson car. The past three winners (J.K. Vernay, Josef Newgarden and Tristan Vautier went on the win the series title).
Dempsey posted a personal high in his third season in Firestone Indy Lights and provided Belardi Auto Racing its best finish.
"I owe it to Belardi Auto Racing and Brian Belardi for giving me the opportunity to be here," Dempsey said. "I'm glad to bring the car home today because we are fighting for a championship. The car was good all race. We are not satisfied with second so we aren't going to be happy until we get that first win. But, for sure, it's definitely a good starting point and if we keep building on this I think we are going to be in the hunt."
Sage Karam, who started sixth in the No. 8 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car, advanced to a podium result in his series debut, while Juan Pablo Garcia in the No. 2 TMR-International-Euclid Chemical car held off Zach Veach to finish fourth.
"This is what we came here for -- try to get good points and make it to the podium, and that's exactly what we did," said Karam, who finished third in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship. "I can't thank the Schmidt Peterson crew enough. They really put the car dialed in there for a good race car. We just got to figure out a little bit more speed on new tires and we can be up there."
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