Matt Hawkins put an exclamation point on an outstanding USAR Hooters Pro Cup rookie season winning the Dan Duncan Memorial 250 championship event at South Georgia Motorsports Park Saturday. The victory was the second of theyear for the...
Matt Hawkins put an exclamation point on an outstanding USAR Hooters Pro Cup rookie season winning the Dan Duncan Memorial 250 championship event at South Georgia Motorsports Park Saturday.
The victory was the second of theyear for the 19-year-old driver, who captured the season-opening USAR event at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL last March.
"Everything played out almost perfectly," said Hawkins. "The win at Lakeland seems a little sweeter because no rookie had ever won in their first-ever Pro Cup race before. We were there trying to get a Top-10 finish and wound up winning the race.
"That's not to say that this win isn't sweet too," Hawkins continued. "We've just had so much bad luck lately that it's nice to finally be rewarded for all of our hard work."
Hawkins' No. 2 H&H Electric Ford Fusion was fast right off the truck as he rolled to the eighth quickest time in qualifying with a lap of 18.658 on the half-mile SGMP oval. The Canton, GA driver then waded his way through a handful of cautions, narrowly missing getting caught up in a multi-car wreck involving the lead pack on Lap 25.
"We were fortunate to not be too close to too many of the wrecks in the race," said Hawkins. "We were up front most of the night, never out of the Top-10, so we didn't have that many wrecks around us. Most of it was behind us."
After a round of pit stops with just under 100 laps remaining, Hawkins made his move driving by veteran Bobby Gill and into the lead on Lap 197. Now with his teammate Mike Garvey in tow, the two Georgia drivers roared away in an effort to settle the race among themselves.
"I'm not sure what happened to Bobby on the restart," said Hawkins. "I think he might have missed a shift. If that hadn't happened, I'm not sure I would have gotten by him. He had a very fast car."
Shane Wallace's hard crash derailed the Hawkins-Garvey checkout as the race was red-flagged on Lap 235 to clean up the debris from the incident. On the restart, Hawkins was slow to come up to speed and Garvey tried to squeeze between Hawkins' electric blue Ford and the lapped car of Chase Pistone. The resulting contact between Garvey and Pistone sent Garvey into the inside wall and a disappointing 19th-place finish.
"I barely spun the tires on the restart," said Hawkins. "When they dropped the flag, Mike got under me and he got into the lapped car and spun out. I just hate that happened because we should have come out of there with one of us winning the race and Mike leading the points."
After the Garvey mishap, Hawkins had one more restart to survive. With pole sitter Mark McFarland in his mirror, Hawkins got it right this time roaring away from the field to win his second career USAR event. McFarland hung on for second with James Buescher, Gill and Woody Howard completing the Top-5 finishers.
The victory was worth $13,000 in prize money to Hawkins and even more to the young driver in terms of his personal and team's future plans.
"It's great any time you can win," said Hawkins. "It not only gives you more momentum going into the next race, but when it comes this late in the season, it also helps you with the things you are trying to set up for next season. This was a huge win for us."