16-Year-Old Hawkins Finishes 18th in Snowball Derby Debut CANTON, Ga. (December 13, 2004) - While another teenager may have won the 37th running of the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., 16-year-old Matt Hawkins was...
16-Year-Old Hawkins Finishes 18th in Snowball Derby Debut
CANTON, Ga. (December 13, 2004) - While another teenager may have won the 37th running of the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., 16-year-old Matt Hawkins was making only his 15th start in a late model and considers his 18th place finish somewhat satisfying.
The Canton, Ga. resident wheeled his No. 22 machine to the 18th starting position when qualifying was held last weekend at the speedway. Due to persistent rain showers last Sunday, the running of the infamous Snowball Derby was postponed to this past Saturday evening. It was also the first time the race had been run under the lights at the Five Flags Speedway, which sustained damage when Hurricane Ivan came through earlier this year.
Patience and staying out of trouble were the goals of the Matt Hawkins Racing team. With 300 laps to be run, this was the longest race of Hawkins' short racing career. Hawkins ran in the top-15 for the first portion of the race, surviving several near misses and some intense battling for position. Hawkins made his first pit stop for fresh tires on lap 83 of the race, while many of the leaders stayed on the track. His pit crew, made up of another Ga. teenage racer, Reed Sorenson's ASA team, got him out quickly and in position to make his run back up to the front.
Hawkins made his way back up to the top-15 when he got stuck on the high side of the track. Hawkins slid all the way to the rear of the field before he could get back inline. By then, the leaders were coming fast and were able to lap Hawkins. On a restart following one of the numerous cautions, Hawkins radioed into crew chief Wayne Hansard he was coming in with a flat right rear tire. The crew hurried to get ready for his pending arrival and changed the tires on the No. 22 and sent him on his way, but lost two laps in the process.
Hawkins remained calm and focused to complete the longest and most prestigious race of the year. Hawkins' two goals were realized at the completion of the 300-lap event. He had remained patient and stayed out of trouble, when a lot of his competitors were unable to say they had accomplished such the feat. Hawkins finished in 18th position, five laps down, but came away with a ton of experience competing with guys sometimes three times his age.
"We came out of here with a racecar that has almost no damage to it, so I can't complain about that," said Hawkins. "It's always frustrating to me if we don't run well, but I think we could've had a top-10 finish if we hadn't had the tire problem. We could run with those guys that finished in the top-10. I just tried to stay out of the leaders way after the tire deal and come out of here the best we could. The crew did a great job setting up this car, and I'm looking forward to competing in more events like this next year."
Hawkins has competed in go-carts, Legends and most recently late models. He has numerous victories and championships in karting competition and looks to build his list of accomplishments in 2005. Hawkins and the Matt Hawkins Racing team have elected to compete in select late model events in 2005, as well as five USAR Hooters Pro Cup races. Their next event will be January 27-29 at Speedfest 2005 at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla.