Hawksworth back to full strength, looks to add to Toronto success

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TORONTO – We’ve had one first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season (Carlos Huertas), and rookie Jack Hawksworth could well be another one in this weekend’s Honda Indy 2 in Toronto (Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra).

First off, Hawksworth is back to full strength behind the wheel after his Pocono accident two weeks ago. He did some training this week, his first since the accident on July 5.

Secondly, if the talented 23-year-old English rookie loses either of the two Toronto races, it’ll mark his first time not winning on the streets around Exhibition Place.

Hawksworth, driver of the No. 98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda, is a perfect three-for-three thus far in Toronto in his career. He swept the pair of Pro Mazda (then Star Mazda) races in 2012 and added a third victory in Indy Lights last year. All three have come from pole position.

Rather than take the opportunity to toot his own horn, Hawksworth was modest and praised his equipment when it comes to his Toronto success.

“I’ve always had good cars, and really, that’s the big thing here,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s a technical street track and I tend to run well on street and road courses. Really we’ve just been able to convert. It’s a fun place here; there’s a lot to it, and it takes nailing the concrete patches and surfaces.”

Hawksworth also praised the nature of the 1.755-mile street course, which he said is a nice change of pace compared to some of the other street courses on the schedule.

“This place is really fun, and it’s so much different than a generic one,” he said. “Houston for example is 90 (degree) left (corner), 90 right, 90 left, 90 right, whatever.

“Here, it’s very different. It’s 90 and widens out, then has a tight corner after long straight (Turn 3), a fast (Turn) 6, then has like a road course section left, right, left. There’s so much going on here you’re trying to keep up! It’s a 59-second lap in an IndyCar… you think it should be a 2-minute one with what you’re fighting.”

While Hawksworth is a perfect three-for-three in Toronto entering the weekend, he looks to better his best result of third overall in IndyCar, set in Houston Race 2.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.