USAR: Lakeland: Matt Hawkins preview

Matt Hawkins Picks Up Jani-King Support in Effort to Repeat Lakeland Victory 20-Year-Old Won His First Pro Cup Race at Lakeland Last Year CANTON, GA (March 12, 2008) -- In last season's USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series opening race at USA ...

Matt Hawkins Picks Up Jani-King Support in Effort to Repeat Lakeland Victory
20-Year-Old Won His First Pro Cup Race at Lakeland Last Year

CANTON, GA (March 12, 2008) -- In last season's USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series opening race at USA International Speedway, Matt Hawkins surprised everyone by winning the race in his first ever series start.

When the Pro Cup season kicks off this weekend, only half of a repeat is possible for Hawkins. He could very well win the race again, but if he does, nobody will be surprised after the kind of season that the 20-year-old rising star put together in 2007. In addition to his Lakeland victory, Hawkins also won the Pro Cup race at South Georgia Motorsports Park, came within a whisker of winning both the Snowball Derby and the World Crown Nationals and visited victory lane at Lanier National Speedway (GA) in a Pro Late Model.

Plenty of people noticed Hawkins' impressive season including fans, fellow competitors and even a sponsor. Hawkins now enters the 2008 season with the backing of Jani-King, a long-term sponsor of racing across the United States. Jani-King also sponsored the racing efforts of Hawkins' coach, Mike Garvey, for years.

"They've been around racing for a long time and they've been heavily involved in short track racing," Hawkins said of his new sponsor. "They've had a great relationship with Mike for years, so I'm honored that they want to continue to support our team this year. I'm just going to represent them the best I can.

"It's cool because Jani-King has a great presence across the country, and they've been around the sport for so long that everyone knows their name. I'm honored that they wanted to be on my car after having so much success with Mike over the years."

The presence of Jani-King rounds out the team that Hawkins drives for. In addition to a great sponsor and a talented driver, having Garvey on top of his pit box to further hone Hawkins' racing skills is something that the young driver is very appreciative of.

"It's great having him part of the team. He's going to be an even bigger asset to the team than he was before now because he'll be on the radio with me every race. Last year with him as crew chief with the Late Model, we could've won both races that we ran at the end of the year. If it wasn't for some bad luck at the World Crown at Peach State, we could've won that race and the Snowball Derby in Pensacola."

Hawkins isn't just resting on his accomplishment from last season, though. He has already been hard at work prepping for 2008.

"We've already tested this year at Valdosta, and we were fast. We tested at Lakeland, and we were fast. I think we're going to be awesome all year. I think he's gotten a lot of things figured out this year that he didn't necessarily have time to figure out last year. Last year, he had to get my car, his car and Bill's (Plemons) car ready. He had to go to the track with stuff he already knew last year. We won some races and ran good all year, but now he's caught up with the latest technology, and we'll be even better than we were last year. We hope to be a threat to win every week."

Now, he's headed to Lakeland not as some unknown rookie, but as a legitimate threat to win the race.

"Last year was just a big learning curve. Lakeland was really a big surprise. Everything just worked out our way to win. We had a great car, and everything went our way that day. That day really just started a year of gaining experience. We're just a lot more ready this year than we were last year. I know what these cars need better than I did this time last year, and I know what kinds of things to tell Mike about the car a lot more too. There's a big difference between these cars and Late Models, so that was a big learning curve last year. Now I and the team are a lot more prepared, and our goal is to go out there and win every race and the championship."

-credit: mh

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Series Stock car
Drivers Mike Garvey