Jack Hawksworth’s impressive debut weekend ends with restart accident

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English rookie Jack Hawksworth entered St. Petersburg this weekend a bit of a wild card in the No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport.

He had two prior wins in his last two trips here, one apiece in Star Mazda (2012) and Indy Lights (2013). But for his first weekend in a Verizon IndyCar on a street circuit, Hawksworth and the single-car BHA squad definitely punched above their weight.

Hawksworth was in the mid-teens to borderline top-10 in Friday’s two practice sessions. Come Saturday, he missed qualifying in the Firestone Fast Six by mere hundredths of a second.

From eighth, Hawksworth ran well and was part of one of the race’s most exciting moments.

The Englishman was involved in a three-wide battle down the front straight with Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti, with Hawksworth diving to the inside on corner entry in a bold move.

It reminded me a bit of when Josef Newgarden attempted, but was unable to complete, a move around the outside of Dario Franchitti for the lead at Turn 1 in Long Beach, 2012.

This was Hawksworth, a late add to the team instead of projected winter favorite Luca Filippi, announcing his arrival and saying “I’m not afraid to mix it up with you guys.”

Unfortunately for Hawksworth, his race would end in contact with Andretti after the accordion effect stack-up on a Lap 83 restart.

“It wasn’t the end to the race that we wanted, unfortunately,” said the Bradford, U.K. native. “It was really out of our control and took us out of the race. I just want to say that the guys did a great job. We had some really good pace on the reds and I think that’s promising, going forward. Now we just go to Long Beach and hopefully we get what we deserve but overall it was a positive day up until then.”

Considering Hawksworth has been with the team less than a month, this was an impressive weekend debut, and could portend bigger and better things for the future.

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500