DejÃ vu All Over Again for Matt Hawkins; Wins In First ARCA Start 20-Year-Old Now Has Wins In His First USAR Pro Cup and ARCA Events CANTON, GA (April 21, 2008) -- As the old saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first ...
Dejà vu All Over Again for Matt Hawkins; Wins In First ARCA Start
20-Year-Old Now Has Wins In His First USAR Pro Cup and ARCA Events
CANTON, GA (April 21, 2008) -- As the old saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression.
Well, that apparently does not apply to 20-year-old Matt Hawkins.
Just a little more than a year after winning his first USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series race in his first-ever start, Hawkins accomplished the same feat. This time, Hawkins became the 20th driver in ARCA RE/MAX Series history to win in his first-career start by taking the checkers in the Prairie Meadows 250 at Iowa Speedway in his #39 Jani-King Dodge.
"I guess the first time's been the charm," said Hawkins, who joins an ARCA list of first-win/first-attempt drivers that includes NASCAR Sprint Cup's Kyle Busch, Scott Riggs and Ernie Irvan. "But we didn't really go in expecting to win. We had a good test there and we knew we'd be pretty good in the race. I probably would've been disappointed if we didn't at least run in the top-three. I never really thought about where I was or how we were doing until the very end when I realized I had won the race.
"This just shows the dedication of the group of guys that I've got behind me right now," added Hawkins. "They've been working their butts off. We've only had this thing for two weeks before we tested here. Mike (Garvey, Hawkins' Crew Chief) completely set it up and went through it and we just got it finished the day we left."
When qualifying for the Prairie Meadows 250 was rained out, Hawkins was forced to start near the rear of the field due to a lack of owner's points from 2007. Without hesitation, however, Hawkins started his march to the front.
"Fortunately starting in the back, everybody did a good job and nobody got into anybody. There wasn't a caution until about lap 30 and we were already up to about sixth. We were much racing with the leaders pretty early. So starting in the back wasn't such a big deal. Our main objective was just to stay on the lead lap because we knew that (polesitter Matt) Carter and them were going to take off at the start. I just tried to go real hard and get as many spots as we could."
Several strong pit stops by the Jani-King team throughout the race put Hawkins in position to make a late charge to the lead, where he found himself in a battle with Carter with only a handful of laps remaining. After the two leaders banged doors for the lead, Hawkins checked out and scored his first-ever ARCA victory.
"Carter just fell off big time," said Hawkins of his late battle for the lead. "I don't know if he got loose or tight or what, but his car seemed like it was on top of the racetrack. My car stayed pretty much the same and on the long runs it just got better. I caught him with about five to go and I certainly didn't mean to get into him. I just got in a little too deep. I lost the nose and got into him, but I also knew the #16 (Justin Allgaier) was coming hard in my mirror, so I really wanted to get by him. He probably had the best car all day, so taking the lead was important to me."
Now with the first victory in his first ARCA start under his belt, which first win was more special to Hawkins, last year's Pro Cup triumph or the ARCA checkers from Saturday?
"I don't know, this one's pretty huge. We're going to try to run four or five more ARCA races this year and go for the Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division Championship. Right now, this win's probably bigger than winning the whole championship, I think."
Hawkins is currently the point leader in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division going into Saturday, April 26th's event at Concord Motorsport Park. Hawkins will be out to strengthen his point lead in the #2 Jani-King machine.
Before heading to Concord, Matt Hawkins will be a guest on Tuesday April 22nd on "ARCA Thunder" at 8:30pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com.