Jack Hawksworth, the dominant driver in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, has become the first Mazda Road to Indy champion of the season.
Hawksworth clinched the title with his eighth victory Sept. 8 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Gabby Chaves, running hard on Hawksworth's tail for the entire race in the No. 19 JDC Motorsports / CLARO / Marca Colombia / Tecpro Mazda, initiated a last-lap pass attempt that nearly ended both their days, but came out of it without incident.
"I reckon this is about the best day of my life so far ... and I can't begin to tell you how relieved I am," Hawksworth said. "Gabby Chaves was right behind me the whole race and I couldn't shake him, but he couldn't get by either, so I was surprised when he suddenly appeared alongside me in the Corkscrew and there wasn't room for both of us. I knew I either had to let him by and win the race or go off in the dirt and keep my foot in it like Alex Zanardi did years ago. At that point I was determined to win, and so was he, so we were both off in the dirt, but we managed to keep the cars pointed straight and I stayed in the lead.
"It was a heart-stopping moment, but we got through it and this is just a tremendous victory for the Pelfrey team.
“We might celebrate a bit tonight, but we still have another race tomorrow, and the season finale after that, so we can't let our hair down too far. There's still a season left to finish."
Chaves will start from pole in Race 2 on Sept. 9 after setting the fastest lap of Race 1. Rounding out the podium was third-place finisher Connor De Phillippi, who won this race from the pole last year and remains fourth in the championship points driving the No. 2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda.
Four drivers were in contention for the championship at the start of the race, and three of them finished on the podium. The remaining driver, Sage Karam, had an off-course excursion in Turn 6 on two consecutive laps and dropped from his second place starting spot to finish seventh in the race.
Hawksworth’s championship run is unparalleled in series history, setting a Star Mazda record for the most wins and poles in a season.
Hawksworth's title-clinching victory comes with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy worth more than $600,000 to move up and compete in Firestone Indy Lights -- the series where last year's Star Mazda champion, Tristan Vautier, is leading the championship battle heading into the season finale Sept. 15.
"I haven't driven an Indy Lights car yet; I wanted to focus on getting the job done in Star Mazda and not tempt fate by dividing my attention," Hawksworth said. "Perhaps between the end of the race tomorrow and the finale at Petit Le Mans I'll have a bit of a think about what I want to do next year, maybe talk to some people. But right now I just got off the phone telling my family in England, where it’s 3 in the morning, that I'd won, and I'm off to be with my team."
Hawksworth has won the championship, but there are still three races remaining in the season, and a lot of the line for the future of some of the series’ other drivers.
Star Mazda on-track action at the Mazda Raceway Grand-Am continues when Race 2 takes the green light for the series' standing start at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Sept. 9.
Star Mazda Championship cars all carry two Replay XD1080 cameras to provide exciting driver POV footage for races that are part of the Mazda Motorsports Hour broadcast tape-delayed on Discovery's Velocity Channel in the U.S. and globally on ESPN International. In the U.S., the race will air on Velocity at noon (ET) Oct. 10. For information on international and Canadian air times, click here.