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.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.