USAR: Hickory: Matt Hawkins preview

Canton, GA (August 1, 2007) - As a rookie in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup ranks, Matt Hawkins is racing on tracks that, for the most part, he's seeing for the first time the day of the event. In the case of Hickory Motor Speedway, Hawkins hasn't raced...

Canton, GA (August 1, 2007) - As a rookie in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup ranks, Matt Hawkins is racing on tracks that, for the most part, he's seeing for the first time the day of the event. In the case of Hickory Motor Speedway, Hawkins hasn't raced at the famed North Carolina oval, but a successful test has him looking forward to the challenges of the tight .363-mile track.

"We had a really good test there and, honestly, I didn't think it was that difficult of a track to learn at all," stated Hawkins, who will pilot the No. 2 H&H Electric Ford Fusion in Saturday's Aaron's 250 at Hickory. "We unloaded with a really fast car that drove well, so I'm sure that's a big part of it. We did a mock qualifying run at the end of the test that was faster than the pole was for the Hooters race at Hickory last year, so I am really looking forward to going back there to race this weekend."

Hawkins is having an outstanding year despite his USAR Hooters Pro Cup rookie status. Currently fourth in the Southern Division regular season point standings, Hawkins has notched one win (Lakeland) and two additional Top-5 finishes -- including a fifth in the most recent Southern Division event at Southern National Speedway in Kenly, NC.

Those results have come despite not qualifying better than 15th for any of the six USAR Southern Division events this season. At Hickory, the 19-year-old driver knows starting up front for the 250-lap event will be important, but qualifying in the back in the pack doesn't mean he won't be up front at the finish.

'We don't really worry about qualifying very much," said Hawkins. "We spend most of our practice time making sure we are good on long runs. Don't get me wrong, it would be nice to qualify up front at Hickory this weekend, but it's not a big concern. Most of the teams will be on different pit cycles anyway and we'll have Rick Crawford's Circle Bar Racing NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pit crew doing our stops at Hickory, so I'm sure we'll pick up a bunch of spots when we pit no matter where we start the race."

Being in the thick of the Southern Division points battle, Hawkins knows a good run at Hickory will go a long way toward capturing a prime spot in the five-race USAR Championship Series later on this season.

"I'm not sure anyone is going to pass Michael, that's probably out of the question," said Hawkins of current Southern Division point leader Michael Ritch. "But I do think we have an excellent shot at finishing second .We just need to maintain where we are in the Top-5 and if we can have good runs at Hickory and the next race at Bristol, we might be able to finish second in the regular season standings. The better we run in these next two races, the better off we'll be when we start the Championship Series in September."

Hawkins will have a shot at doing just that in the Aaron's 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway when the green flag falls this Saturday, August 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

-credit: www.matthawkins.net

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