USAR: Lakeland: Matt Hawkins race report

Matt Hawkins Starts Out Pro Cup Season With Second at Lakeland 20-Year-Old Competitor Leads Southern Competition in Point Standings CANTON, GA (March 17, 2008) -- There's no shame in finishing second to a worthy competitor on occasion and...

Matt Hawkins Starts Out Pro Cup Season With Second at Lakeland
20-Year-Old Competitor Leads Southern Competition in Point Standings

CANTON, GA (March 17, 2008) -- There's no shame in finishing second to a worthy competitor on occasion and when that competitor is three-time USAR Hooters Pro Cup Northern Division champion Benny Gordon, that makes a runner-up finish even more impressive.

However, sophomore Pro Cup Series driver Matt Hawkins can't help but to be a little disappointed in his second-place finish Saturday night in the Sears Auto Center 200 at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida. Hawkins knows what it feels like to win; just last season he won at Lakeland in his first-ever series start, so you'll have to forgive him for not wanting to settle for second behind anyone -- even a champion like Gordon.

"I had him passed coming to a late caution," said Hawkins. "Then we had all of the red flags, and he was just a little bit better on the restarts. I got right to his back bumper on the last lap, and I was a little bit disappointed not to get by because I thought we had a better car than him. I just didn't get the chance to do anything with him."

Still, 20-year-old Hawkins is somewhat satisfied with the race. After all, Gordon isn't a regular competitor in the Pro Cup Southern Division that Hawkins competes in, meaning that after one race, he is essentially the point leader.

"It was a great run," said Hawkins. "We came out with the points lead by beating everyone from the South and we are looking to build on that."

You might think that after one race, nobody is thinking about points. But that isn't true of Hawkins. He was thinking about the championship battle before the 2008 season even began.

"We wouldn't race a whole season if we didn't think that we could be a contender. Our goal going into this year is to win the championship. I finished sixth last year as a rookie who pretty much made the calls on the car himself. I think that with Mike [Garvey] as our crew chief now, we're in good shape. I think that we're going to run awesome [in the next series race] at South Georgia, so we'll just go there and try to keep the point lead."

Hawkins is also happy to post such a strong finish in the first race with sponsorship by Jani-King.

"We're glad to have them on board, and it was a good way to start the year. We've tried forever to get a sponsor like Jani-King, so to be able to come out of the box and run well for them is awesome."

Now, Hawkins is looking ahead to the next scheduled Pro Cup race, which also takes place at a track where he won as a rookie in 2007. That race will be at South Georgia Speedway on Saturday, March 29th.

"We won there the last time that Pro Cup went there," said Hawkins. "I like the track a lot. We went and tested and the car drove very well, so I should have a good shot at it."

-credit: www.matthawkins.net

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