MILWAUKEE – It seems that opinions about Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. is running along mostly generational lines, in terms of driver takes.
Those who raced in the 1990s and early 2000s, with higher horsepower and lesser downforce cars didn’t seem to like it as much and have been quick to criticize, while the newer wave of drivers who have entered in the last four or five years (with some exceptions) found it thrilling.
One driver who had more of a front row seat to the race than most was Jack Hawksworth, driver of the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, who tended to agree with his team boss in that excitement topped nerves as he was close to the front of the pack, but not immediately in it on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say it was crazy. It was exciting I think,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk in an interview on Tuesday. “There was a lot going on; granted, I would have been like to been in the thick of it a bit more. I was at the back end of it.
“But I thought the racing was good. It was close, right? Everyone was going and pushing hard. The crazy thing was only when people made crazy moves with 70 laps to go still, when everyone’s that close. It doesn’t matter with 50 or 70 to go. Doing some do-or-die stuff early on, that was strange.”
Hawksworth ended 10th on the day. He said he never felt the action too scary at any one point.
He also made the point that the potential of heavy, scary freak accidents is not limited to high-speed ovals.
“I never thought it was too bad; they raced worse than this for like 10 years with the old car, right?” he said.
“I think you have certain drivers and teams who would like it to be a certain way, because it gives them more an advantage.
“If it’s ‘pack racing,’ then everybody is very close and anything can happen, or certainly it gives everyone a shot… you don’t know what will happen ’til the end.
“If you take the downforce off the cars, and it’s single-file, and the fastest car goes to the front and pulls away, it’s not as exciting. If you’re one of those guys who thinks they could run off into the distance, you’d probably be against it in my opinion.
“I don’t understand how it can be super dangerous now, but yet they raced the old car four-wide every single week for God knows how long, right?
“Obviously the Las Vegas incident was horrific, but racing is inherently dangerous. A freak accident can happen in any condition. It doesn’t need to be ‘pack racing’ to cause it.”
Words spoken like a driver more mature beyond his 24 years, and who currently races for one of America’s all-time badasses, in A.J. Foyt.
The excitement helped produce a higher TV number on NBCSN and, from Hawksworth’s perspective, a more interesting race.
“The big thing for me was reaction to people who watched the race was exciting, which is a good thing, right? That’s my opinion,” he said.
“If people thought it was exciting, the racing was good… let’s be honest, it was much more exciting to watch than Texas. Yeah, the incident at the end was unfortunate, but I thought the race was exciting.”