USAR: Hickory: Matt Hawkins race report

Sometimes, young drivers learn lessons the hard way. That proved to be the case for Matt Hawkins Saturday as a mistake on a restart while leading the Aaron's 250 USAR Hooters Pro Cup race at Hickory Motor Speedway cost the 19-year-old driver a...

Sometimes, young drivers learn lessons the hard way.

That proved to be the case for Matt Hawkins Saturday as a mistake on a restart while leading the Aaron's 250 USAR Hooters Pro Cup race at Hickory Motor Speedway cost the 19-year-old driver a shot at his second victory of the season.

"I just plain screwed up," said Hawkins, who was black flagged by Pro Cup race control for jumping the restart on Lap 134. "I started before the line. Man, the car was good. It just botched it up. It was my fault."

The penalty was bittersweet for Hawkins, who was making his first appearance at the famed Hickory oval. The venerable raceway had gotten the best of the Canton, GA youngster earlier in the day as he struggled in practice before taking a provisional starting position rolling off 29th in the 33 car field.

Hawkins proved to be a quick study as he moved through the field early in the event before pitting at the 75-lap mark of the 250-circuit contest. The strategyworked to perfection as Hawkins again raced his way through the pack and when the leaders came to pit road at the halfway mark of the race, Hawkins found himself leading the race.

Hawkins' No. 2 H&H Electric Ford Fusion roared away from the field on the restart only to be slowed when another caution -- one of 15 that punctuated the event -- flew just a few circuits later. On the following restart, Hawkins proved to be a bit too eager, jumping the start and getting the black flag.

Despite going down a lap for a mandatory stop-and-go penalty, Hawkins was able to climb back on to the lead lap and was running in the Top-15 when he was shoved into a multi-car spin in Turn 3 on Lap 226. Unable to fire his car's engine, Hawkins lost all chance at a solid finish as the field idled by him several times before he got going again.

"We came out in the back of the pack and raced our way back before they got wadded up in front of us," said Hawkins. "I tried to get it fired up and the battery was dead. I had zero volts. We went four laps down before we got going again and after that, I was just riding around."

Eventually, Hawkins came home 25th, a far cry from a possible win or top finish.

"We deserved better than that," said Hawkins. "My car didn't have much forward bite at the start of the race, but we fixed that and were able to race up through the field. Unfortunately, I just messed up on the restart and then we got in that wreck. We should have never been in that position to begin with. It was my fault. I'll know better next time."

-credit: matthawkins.net

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