USAR: Matt Hawkins to run for rookie title

Snowflake winner sets sight on Pro Cup Rookie Title Matt Hawkins aims to join Vickers, Gordon and O'Quinn as ROTY winners Myrtle Beach, S.C.-Winning Snowflake 100 at Five Flags (Fla.) Speedway as part of the 39th Annual Snowball Derby weekend...

Snowflake winner sets sight on Pro Cup Rookie Title
Matt Hawkins aims to join Vickers, Gordon and O'Quinn as ROTY winners

Myrtle Beach, S.C.-Winning Snowflake 100 at Five Flags (Fla.) Speedway as part of the 39th Annual Snowball Derby weekend was the highlight of Matt Hawkins' career, but the 18-year-old driver is already looking forward to his next ultra-competitive race.

In '07, Hawkins, of Canton, Ga., will compete for the one of the largest-and most prestigious-rookie of the year awards in motorsports: the Hooters Pro Cup Rookie of the Year.

Brian Vickers, Benny Gordon, Jeff Agnew and Woody Howard all have a Miller Lite Rookie of the Year title on their mantles, and Danny O'Quinn, Joel Kauffman and Gary St. Amant have taken divisional rookie titles. Hawkins hopes to be the next name added to the list and sees no reason why he shouldn't.

"I really don't see why we shouldn't come out, run competitively and win a few races," said Hawkins, who will drive the No. 2s H&H Electric Ford. "I know Pro Cup is tough, but the field in the Snowflake was tough too."

Hawkins won't be the typical rookie, however. While he'll be seeing a lot of the tracks for the first time, Hawkins will have a short-track legend to lean on when needed. Former Pro Cup winner Mike Garvey will continue his mentor role with Hawkins in 2007, and Garvey believes in Hawkins as much as Hawkins believes in himself.

"Matt is a natural racer," said Garvey, who helped Hawkins throughout 2006. "He's very fast everywhere we go. But unlike a lot of guys who are fast, he's patient. I think he was in one wreck last year, and that's because somebody ran into him. He runs into a lot less stuff than I ever did."

The youngster's uncanny maturity is likely due his lengthy racing resume. Since he was four years old, Hawkins has been racing competitively-and winning titles.

In 2003, Hawkins won the WKA National Championship before moving to stock cars. In his rookie season in Late Model action, Hawkins qualified for the prestigious Snowball Derby, won two poles and notched seven top-five finishes in 15 starts in 2004.

In '05, Hawkins won the SAS overall and rookie of the year titles. Last year, Hawkins claimed victory in two Georgia Asphalt Series events, notched 10 top-five finishes in 17 starts around the country and ended the year with a win in the Snowflake 100.

But it may be the off-track insight gained last year that helps Hawkins the most in the longer races during his rookie season.

"Mike really helped me learn what to do to make the car better," said Hawkins. "Just watching him and working with him, I learned a ton. I think that's going to be helpful in the longer races.

"I've driven a Pro Cup car before, so I don't think I'm going to have to change my driving style. I'm looking forward to this year, and I think we should have just as good as of a season as we did last year."

If so, Hawkins may need to clear a spot on his mantle.

-credit: usar

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Series Stock car
Drivers Brian Vickers , Mike Garvey , Joel Kauffman , Jeff Agnew