Starting 23rd and last on Sunday, there wasn’t much in the way of odds on Jack Hawksworth scoring his first career podium finish in the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.
Then again, this was a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend in Houston where nothing seemed to go according to odds and plan. And thus, the English rookie who’s shown so much speed in qualifying and some races this year delivered a dynamic comeback drive from the rear of the field up to third by the checkered flag.
A methodical drive forward coupled with being in the right position on pit strategy left Hawksworth in the top five despite a flurry of mid-race cautions. From there, his final stint of the race saw him, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball locked in an intense battle for fourth place, with Hawksworth doing everything within his power to hold the other two off.
Fourth became third when Will Power had a mechanical issue with two laps remaining, and suddenly Hawksworth made it through to the podium behind the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates.
It betters his Saturday result of sixth, after he’d started 21st, which had been his previous best result. Additionally, it’s the team’s first podium finish since the team’s first and thus far only career victory achieved by the late Dan Wheldon at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. In two full seasons of 2012 and 2013, the team captured several top-fives but had not returned to the top three.
“Just a fantastic day really. We’ve started at the front so many times but it’s not happened for us. Today we were terrible qualifying and ended up on the podium,” Hawksworth said to NBCSN post-race.
“We passed cars at the right time. It’s been tough, we’ve been so good this year but it hasn’t come together. I’m just so delighted for the whole team. Just really proud of all the guys, totally deserved.”
Hawksworth is the fourth rookie and 16th driver overall to score a podium this season. He praised the level of competition as well.
“The competition in the whole field has been strong all year,” he said. “Really anyone can stick it on the pole or win a race. And each weekend it seems to change. So you have to be perfect every weekend.”
And on a weekend where he had a practice crash and two of his worst starts of his young career, Hawksworth made his results count.