IndyCar: Hawksworth adds to GP of Indy intrigue with outside pole

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The other half of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis surprise front row, alongside polesitter Sebastian Saavedra, is rookie Jack Hawksworth in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Hawksworth put in quite a bounce back effort from starting second-to-last (22nd) in Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago, his first permanent road course race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Now, he has second on the grid but more importantly his third top-10 start in four races.

And yet he’s optimistic and hungry for more if he can get the jump on Saavedra from the front row.

“We have very good pace. I’m actually quite excited,” the Bradford, U.K. native said of having the snarling pack of 23 other IndyCars behind him heading into Turn 1. “I think the car is very good. We have a clear track ahead. If we can get Saavedra at the first corner, we’ll try and pull away, see what we can do.”

Hawkworth reckoned he, along with the rest of the Firestone Fast Six runners, had more time in hand before Ryan Hunter-Reay’s accident off Turn 14 ended the session.

“I think everybody had a lot more on the table,” he said. “I think the fastest lap was going to be on the last lap. Everybody was pretty quick.”

Once more, Hawksworth extolled the virtues and work of his Bryan Herta/Steve Newey-led team. Like Josef Newgarden at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, this is the case of a young driver on a single-car team doing wonders to punch above their weight.

“In some ways it’s good, get through the politics,” he said regarding the lack of a teammate. “To be honest, I’m working very well with the team. They’re giving me what I want.

“I think I’m able to kind of lead them in the right direction with the car, as well. I’m not too worried about not having a teammate. I kind of like it.

“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season with them. We started the season out quite strong. There’s been glimmers of speed and potential. Not all quite there yet, but hopefully tomorrow is the day when we do to.”

In three races Hawksworth has been taken out twice by accidents not of his own doing, and finished 12th at Barber. He has his best chance to score his first series top-10 finish, if not do more, on Saturday in the Charter/Energee entry.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.