IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Jack Hawksworth

AP
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MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with Jack Hawksworth. Hawksworth had a challenging second season in the sport.

Jack Hawksworth, No. 41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

  • 2014: 17th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 2nd, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 32 Laps Led, 15.6 Avg. Start, 13.1 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 17th Place, Best Finish 7th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 16 Laps Led, 17.2 Avg. Start, 15.9 Avg. Finish

Hawksworth endured something of a nightmare second season in IndyCar, after a promising rookie season in 2014 where he frequently punched above his weight with Bryan Herta Autosport. It all went the opposite of the intended plan; Hawksworth moved to Texas, had a teammate, a decent engineering staff and more available resources but by way of either bad luck, bad timing, bad setups or a combination of all of the above, never had one truly standout weekend.

There was a harbinger of positivity at the season opener at St. Petersburg, where Hawksworth vaulted from 21st to eighth by the finish, despite needing a new front wing and pitting off sequence to lead five laps. But he didn’t produce a single top-10 qualifying run – teammate Takuma Sato had five – his best efforts were 11th on two occasions to fly the flag for Honda’s frequently difficult road course aero kit. His one top-10 start came courtesy of a rainout at NOLA, where the field was set by entrant points (and thus, his St. Petersburg result).

After the eighth in St. Pete, Hawksworth’s four remaining top-10 finishes all were almost completely strategy or yellow flag timing-aided rather than down to outright performance. His best drive was probably Detroit race two, where he twice served as Sage Karam’s bowling pin, yet recovered to seventh by the checkered flag.

It’s easy to forget Hawksworth is only 24 considering he won the 2012 Star Mazda title, won races in Indy Lights in 2013 and overachieved a year ago with Herta. But he can’t afford future seasons like this one and provided he returns with Foyt, as is expected, for 2016, he’ll need to enter himself into the “comeback driver of the year” conversation. This was definitely a year to forget for the likable Englishman.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.