USAR: Lakeland: Matt Hawkins race report

Matt Hawkins Earns Biggest Career Win In Hooters Pro Cup Debut 19-Year-Old Races Like Anything But A Rookie And Comes Up Big At Lakeland CANTON, GA (March 12, 2007) -- When the Matt Hawkins Racing team headed USA International Speedway (FL)...

Matt Hawkins Earns Biggest Career Win In Hooters Pro Cup Debut
19-Year-Old Races Like Anything But A Rookie And Comes Up Big At Lakeland

CANTON, GA (March 12, 2007) -- When the Matt Hawkins Racing team headed USA International Speedway (FL) for the 2007 USAR Hooters Pro Cup opener, they weren't heading there with dreams of victory in their head. Sure they had thought about it, but they were going into their first-ever Pro Cup race and, as rookies, they set some more moderate goals for themselves. They really just wanted to be able to finish the race with the car in one piece.

Well, the #2 H&H Electric / MHR team found out that dreams can come true, and Matt Hawkins made sure he started off the 2007 Pro Cup Season in the best possible position... first-place. Hawkins won the Sears 250 on Saturday night coming in his first-career Pro Cup Series start.

"I'm surprised for sure," said Hawkins. "We came to qualify in the top-20, finish in the top-15 and come home with all of the fenders on it. I never thought that we'd do this good.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet. I don't know how long it will take to sink in."

Looking at the #2 out on the track, most wouldn't have thought that it was a rookie behind the wheel. Hawkins started the race from the 15th position and tried not to look back, driving his car like a veteran. He was patient through the event; he stayed up front and only passed when he had to.

"The car was really tight in the center off.  When I got up behind
someone, I was getting aero tight.  We had a great pit strategy.  We came
in and got gas first, then got tires.  That was the best way to go.

"The second set of tires was a lot better. They had a lot of grip. I felt like I was in the track better, but when I got behind someone, I couldn't get by them because the car got tight. Everything just worked out. People would dive under someone and I would just follow them by. That was the best way for me to get by other cars."

Hawkins not only used a little bit of pit strategy to make sure he was up front, but he was able to avoid incidents that took out some of the front runners throughout the night. With the laps ticking down, he was able to get by race leader Frank Deiny Jr. with 15 laps to go. After that, it was nothing but clear sailing all the way to the checkers for the young rookie.

"The car was really good out front. I was just watching Trevor (second-place running Trevor Bayne) to make sure he wasn't getting too close. The car was awesome out front. In traffic, the car wasn't that great, but out front it was awesome."

Now that he has his first career Pro Cup start, as well as first victory, under his belt, the pressure is off in some ways. The first win came early, now he just has to go after the second one.

"This win starts the season right. Now, we are going to want to win every race. And, of course, I know that isn't something we are going to do, but we are going to want to. We still really want to compete for the Championship. We want to win every week. We know we won't be winning races every week. This is too good of a series and has too many good drivers to ever think that."

Whether he expects to win all the races or not, Hawkins seems to have a thing for making statements. Last year, he ended his season with one when he claimed the Snowflake 100 event as part of the Snowball Derby weekend. This year, he started it off with one, telling the whole Pro Cup world that this rookie knows how to drive.

"None of us expected this," added Hawkins. "The Snowflake was big, but this is huge. This is by far the biggest race and the biggest win of my career."

Matt Hawkins will get his next chance to try for the victory when the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series returns to action on March 31st at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta, Georgia. Racing will get underway at 7:30pm. All Pro Cup races will be seen on SPEED Channel.

-credit: www.matthawkins.net.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Trevor Bayne