USAR: Bristol: Matt Hawkins race report

Hawkins Not Intimidated By Bristol High Banks Matt Hawkins had never seen Bristol Motor Speedway before the Food City 150 USAR Hooters Pro Cup race, so you'd have expected the 19-year-old rookie driver to be a bit intimidated by the famed ...

Hawkins Not Intimidated By Bristol High Banks

Matt Hawkins had never seen Bristol Motor Speedway before the Food City 150 USAR Hooters Pro Cup race, so you'd have expected the 19-year-old rookie driver to be a bit intimidated by the famed high-banked oval track.

That was hardly the case as, despite a wreck early in the event, Hawkins had nothing but high marks for the .533-mile Bristol track.

"When you were by yourself, it didn't seem that fast," said Hawkins of the Bristol track. "It didn't seem like the straight away speeds were as fast as someplace like USA International (Lakeland, FL). Then again, when you got out there in traffic and you were busy, Bristol seemed plenty fast. There was a lot going on all the time. I liked it a lot."

Without any previous experience at Bristol, Hawkins used the two one-hour practice sessions to get comfortable on the high-speed raceway. By qualifying, Hawkins was well up to speed turning in a lap of 16.202 seconds, good enough to take the 22nd starting position in the 36-car field.

Gradually, the Canton, GA driver made his way toward the front of the pack only to get caught up in someone else's wreck in the fifth caution of the night on Lap 43

"We were tight at the beginning of the race, so when we pitted, we took left-side tires," said Hawkins. "That really got the car going and we were able to run down the pack in front of us. Then they all got together and we had it missed only to get turned into it. Then we got run into head on and that messed us up quite a bit."

Quick work on his No. 2 H&H Electric Ford Fusion allowed Hawkins to return to the race and manage a 22nd-place finish -- not what he wanted, but still a positive night for the young racer.

"That isn't what we had in mind, that's for sure," said Hawkins. "But I did have a great time. Racing at Bristol was really fun, the most fun I have ever had racing."

Hawkins finished ninth in the final USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division regular season standings. He also came home second in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings.

Next up will be the USAR championship series beginning Saturday, September 1, at Mansfield (OH) Motorsports Park. The event is set to take the green flag at 7 p.m.

Highlights of the Bristol Food City 150 can be seen on Wednesday, August 29 on the SPEED Channel at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

-credit: www.matthawkins.net

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