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.