30 June 2014
Hawksworth celebrates maiden IndyCar podium
Jack Hawksworth had already caught the eye with impressive outings in his first year in IndyCar, but his podium in Houston puts him firmly in the limelight
Jack Hawksworth was celebrating with his Bryan Herta Autosport crew on Sunday night after clinching a standout podium finish in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, the first in his fledgling Verizon IndyCar Series career.
But it wasn't the podium that impressed so much as the manner in which he won it, working his way up from a back row start on the grid in the early laps, and then holding up under intense pressure from Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball in some of the most thrilling racing seen so far this season.
"Just a fantastic day really," said the 23-year-old from Bradford. "We've been starting up front so many times this year and it's not happened on race day. Today, we had a terrible qualifying and we end up on the podium.
"The guys did a great job on pit wall," he explained. "We were quick at the right time. We were able to pass cars at the right time and I'm so delighted and so proud of Bryan Herta Autosport. They really deserve this.
"It's been rough this year," he added. "We've been so fast on occasions and it's just not quite happened. We haven't been able to put it together and today we were able to do it."
Montoya had been racing with the benefit of the faster red-wall alternate tyres, but after Hawksworth was able to hold him off for lap after lap Montoya started to struggle as the short-lived options started to wear badly, and he dropped back to seventh by the finish. Even so, the Colombian - who finished in second place in Saturday's first race - was in good spirits.
"That was a fun day!" Montoya said. "The #2 Verizon Chevy was really good. It was good on both the 'red' [option] tyres and 'black' [prime] tyres. We were in position there at the end. The racing was really hard right there.
"That was a good learning experience for me and I'll know how hard I can race the next time I'm in that situation," he added, showing that even a racer with his experience in CART, F1 and NASCAR is always learning. "Very good points day for us. Now we go to Pocono where I have a lot of experience."
After Montoya had faded, the baton was passed to Charlie Kimball who did his best to get past Hawksworth but found the #98 just as difficult to pass as Montoya had, meaning that he eventually had to settle for fourth place.
"Overall I'm really happy with a top-five finish and we just drove the wheels off of it when we could," said Kimball. "The Novo Nordisk guys did an awesome job in pit lane and the Chevy guys have been working really hard all weekend to give us an engine that's drivable and gets good mileage."
Hawksworth was the top-placed Briton at the end of the race, with both Justin Wilson and Mike Conway finishing a lap off the lead in 12th and 13th places respectively after suffering from costly incidents during the race; in Wilson's case it was being punted into the wall by Marco Andretti during a restart on lap 68.
"It was a frustrating end to my day," sighed Wilson. "I thought we were good and I thought it was going to work out. We struggled a bit on restarts so guys were all over the back of me. I knew that if I could hang on for a couple of laps I would get going and be quick again.
"Marco tried to come down the inside and it wasn't really going to happen," he recalled. "He tried to get out of it and he just tapped me into the wall. He came down [after the race] and apologised and said 'I didn't mean to do that.'
"It is just racing," Wilson summed up philosophically. "I know it was just a mistake and it is a shame but we kept going on when we were a lap down and we were trying to salvage any points we can."
As for Conway, damage to the front wing of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing car on the opening lap ruined his day's prospects - and it was the same driver who was the culprit.
"Going into the chicane on the first lap, Marco made a move in front of me and I couldn't stop quick enough," revealed Conway. "It clipped the front wing and I think it cut the tyre too, so I had to pit immediately and that really killed the race for us."
In any case, Conway was still suffering from the after effects of his early crash into a tyre barrier in the first race of the weekend: "My [left] thumb was okay during the race after spraining it Saturday. It felt a little numb at times because I think the tape might have be a little too tight, but it was okay."
Conway added that he'd also had a lucky escape on the last lap of the race when Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Luca Filippi ran into a tyre barrier.
"I had a close call with a piece of carbon that flew up from Filippi's car," said Conway. "It hit the right mirror and almost me. It was close to hitting me in the head. That would have hurt."
It was an unfortunate end to Filippi's weekend which had seen two top six starts in his first open wheel race outings of the year. A slow puncture and damage to the front wing on the back of Sebastien Bourdais' car hampered his race, but he was still in the top seven when the final blow came as he came up on the back of Montoya's car on the penultimate lap and found the #2 struggling on its worn set of options.
"I don't understand what happened," said Filippi. "I braked in my normal place for that area and I hit him. I don't know if he had a problem with fuel or tyres but something happened to him because I was very surprised by his braking zone and I couldn't do anything but touch him. I went in the marbles and our race was over."
Despite the #98 being stuck nose-first in the tyre wall, the race carried on to the finish with local yellows handling the accident site. Filippi was uninjured and already looking forward to his next outing with RLL in three weeks time at the Toronto doubleheader.
"I gained a lot of experience this weekend," said the 28-year-old Italian who was runner-up in the GP2 and AutoGP Series in 2011. "It's been a long time since I have raced and racing at a high level like this is not easy. To get the perfection you have to work on it and hopefully we will be there in Toronto.
"The weekend was surprising from a speed point of view," he added. "We were fast all the time. I made a few mistakes which I shouldn't have but I was pushing very hard and this is what happens when you do that. Generally you have to be optimistic and happy.
"Next time I will be used to the team and we have a foundation to get a good result," he pledged.
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