Matt Hawkins Wins Sears Auto Center 200 Rookie wins in first start Lakeland, Fla.-Frank Deiny Jr. summed up what everyone else was thinking, "I don't even know who the kid is." The "kid" is Matt Hawkins, and he shocked the Hooters Pro Cup...
Matt Hawkins Wins Sears Auto Center 200
Rookie wins in first start
Lakeland, Fla.-Frank Deiny Jr. summed up what everyone else was thinking, "I don't even know who the kid is."
The "kid" is Matt Hawkins, and he shocked the Hooters Pro Cup world on Saturday, March 10 by winning the Sears Auto Center 200 presented by Handy Neighborhood Stores at USA Int'l Speedway in the Aaron's Southern Division opener.
Hawkins, of Canton, Ga., nudged Deiny out of the lead on a restart with 15 laps remaining and held off a hard-charging Trevor Bayne en route to his first win in his first Pro Cup start.
"This is by far the biggest win of my life," said Hawkins, who won the prestigious Snowflake 100 last year. "I just wanted to qualify, finish in the top 10 and keep all the fenders on it. The last thing I was thinking about was winning the race; it's unbelievable."
For awhile, it looked like Deiny Jr. would be the driver to win in his first Hooters Pro Cup start. Deiny, of Ashland, Va., cycled into the lead on Lap 130, when most of the leaders came to pit road, and was in control of the race as the laps wound down.
Numerous times prior to the final restart, Deiny, driver of the No. 5 Bailey's/Concept Mining Ford, had been able to fend off Hawkins. But Hawkins wasn't Deiny's only concern when the green waved for the final time.
"We were getting tight on those restarts," said Deiny, who was also making his first Pro Cup start. "I was trying to give the bottom to the lapped car [of Richard Boswell]. I didn't know how many laps down that guy was and I was trying to get him back on the lead lap to get him out of my way. I knew it would eventually come back to bite us."
On lap 185, it did.
Going into the Turn 1, Deiny tried to peek to the outside of Boswell and slowed for a split second. When he did, Hawkins put the nose of his No. 2 H&H Electric Ford squarely on Deiny's bumper. The contact sent Deiny up the track and Hawkins into the lead.
"I just got a pile-drive by [Hawkins] on the way in," said Deiny. "The boy did what he had to do; he won the race. I'm happy we finished fifth in our first start, but I'm competitive, so I'm really not that happy."
Deiny eventually slipped to fifth at the finish.
Without Deiny in the mix over the final 10 laps, Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29 Chevy, made a charge to the rear bumper of Hawkins. Bayne, also seeking his first win, tried to force Hawkins into a mistake in the waning laps, but he came up .331 seconds short at the finish.
"This a great start for the whole team," said Bayne. "[Crew chief] Blake Bainbridge had the car great on long runs tonight, and we're going to get some wins this season. There were a lot of close calls out there tonight, but I'm happy we came out with a second-place finish without much damage to the racecar."
While Bayne and Hawkins managed to get out unscathed, the same can't be said of the many of the early frontrunners.
Bobby Gill, who led the first 74 laps, ducked to pit road before the pits were open and was forced to tail end of the longest line for the restart on Lap 77. On his way back to the front, the 3-time Pro Cup champ got minor damage in an accident on Lap 102. Gill was in the middle of a three-wide sandwich with Shelby Howard and Trevor Bayne that ended with Howard slamming the outside wall.
"The deal with [Howard] was a racing deal," said Gill. "I had a straight run on him and [Bayne] made it three wide. I've been wrecked like that a 100 times, so I don't know what they're upset about."
Even with damage to the right front of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, Gill continued to march towards the front, moving from 22nd to third by Lap 180. But in the end, the penalty proved to be too much to overcome.
"I should have been paying attention, but we shouldn't have road around for an extra lap before the pits were open," said Gill, who finished third. "We should have won the race, but we just put ourselves in a hole early."
Mike Garvey, who started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, also was put in a hole early when he followed Gill down pit road and received a tail-end-of- the-longest line penatly. But, like Gill, Garvey drove his No. 17 Jani-King Ford back to the front at a feverish pace before being spun out of contention on Lap 179.
"We dug ourselves a hole, but we raced our butts off and got out of it," said Garvey. "Then to be sitting in a place to get a top three or maybe win the race and have a guy on the inside on every restart that can't go nowhere wreck you with 10 laps to go, that's just frustrating."
However, Garvey did climb back to 11th at the finish.
Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, led for 16 laps, but the former Northern Division competitor pitted for tires on Lap 127 and dropped back to 25th. But his fresh BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials paid dividends late in the race as he rallied to fourth at the finish.
Justin Wakefield, Gary Helton, Clay Jones, Don Satterfield and Mike Garvey rounded out the top 10.
The Sears Auto Center 200 featured six lead changes among six drivers and was slowed 14 times for 87 laps of caution.
Sears Auto Center 200 Notebook
Faster, Faster, Faster.
Despite 46 cars on hand, Advance Auto Parts Pole Qualifying went by fast, real fast. Nineteen of the 46 drivers broke the Clay Rogers' track record time of 21.725 seconds. Mike Garvey was the fastest; he torched the .75- mile layout in 21.463 seconds at 125.798 mph. Garvey pocketed an extra $1,000 for his pole award.
Yellow No More
At 16 years old, Trevor Bayne no longer carries a yellow rookie stripe and likes the perks that come with being a sophomore driver.
"I've gained more respect a year later," said Bayne, driver of the No. 29 CHEVY Racing Chevrolet, "This year, when I got under someone, they'd give me some more room."
Planning Your Move
With the new rule of not being able to fuel and change tires at the same time, planning the right strategy was big part of the outcome of the event. Frank Deiny was the first to complete both parts of his stop, coming in for fuel on Lap 42 and tires on Lap 50.
"We talked strategy in the trailer for a long time," said Deiny. "My car was good, but it was still hard to pass. We decided that we needed to do something that would get us up front where we had to pass the least amount. It worked out pretty good. We might have come in a little too soon for tires, because the car sliding around there at the end."
Race winner Matt Hawkins took fuel on Lap 42 and tires on Lap 75.
In for the Long Haul
Don Satterfield has been a part of the Hooters Pro Cup Series since its inaugural season in 1997. To start his-and the series-second decade, Satterfield, driver of the No. 1 Hawk Saw Blades Chevrolet, qualified 16th and finished 10th in his 134th Pro Cup start.
It was hard not to miss the past two Pro Cup champions diddling around in the pit area rather than holding the wheel, but that's just what Clay Rogers and Benny Gordon were doing. Rogers was helping out rookie Bryan Silas, while Gordon was trying to help Dominick Casola make the event.
"Sometimes you go from Champ to chump," joked Gordon.
Kidding aside, Rogers will run 10 Craftsman Truck races later this year, while Gordon will be back to defend his Sears Auto Center Northern Division title starting at South Boston on April 14.