Race Weekend Central

Jack Hawksworth Reflects on IndyCar Past, IMSA Present & Truck Debut

Jack Hawksworth has competed in everything from sports cars to open wheel cars in Europe and North America, and on Saturday (March 23), he competed for TRICON Garage in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas in what proved to be his first NASCAR race in five years.

Frontstretch got to chat with Hawksworth at COTA the day before the race (March 22), and the 33-year-old Brit revealed that his love for racing came at a young age.

“I grew up in in Bradford, England, northern part of the UK,” Hawksworth said. “I loved growing up there, it was fun. … I was always big into bikes, motorcycles and stuff from the age of like four, I had a little bike and used to ride it all the time.

“I’d go go kart racing when I was like 11, 12, raced in Europe for a long time. And then on the way over here [to the US], obviously road racing is really big in Europe, so I came doing the road racing stuff and go kart stuff and raced in Europe, raced in the UK and then made the move to the States at the end of 2011.”

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As for his decision to pursue racing in the United States? It was for an opportunity to compete in the Star Mazda Championship (now known as the USF Pro 2000 Championship), one of the steps on the Road to Indy development program.

“At the time it was called the Mazda Road to Indy, and you get a scholarship if you won the series,” Hawksworth said. “If you won Star Mazda, you’re spotted to Indy Lights, IndyCar.

“… I was able to sell investment in myself in the UK to come on and do that on the basis that if you won the championship, there was more funding there to go to the next level. So that’s why I came over to the States. Came over, did a test at Indianapolis in 2011 with a team called Team Pelfrey. And then, I got to race for them [in Mazda] in 2012, and that was that really.”

Hawksworth and Pelfrey won the 2012 championship by winning eight of the 17 races, and that landed Hawksworth an opportunity with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in Indy Lights (now known as Indy NXT) for 2013 — the final step of the ladder before reaching the NTT IndyCar Series.

Hawksworth won three races and finished fourth in points in the 2013 season, and that led to his promotion to IndyCar in 2014, where he raced full time for three seasons. He scored a best finish of third in Houston, Texas, during his rookie season, and he scored his best Indianapolis 500 finish of 16th in 2016.

While he left open wheel racing after the 2016 season, Hawksworth fondly remembers his time in IndyCar and the road leading up to it.

“[The Indy 500 was] super cool,” Hawksworth said. “I mean going, doing Indy is like a really special experience. Obviously just the amount of people there, and I had a really good time in open wheel. I was very successful in the Junior Formula, won some races and won some championships, and then in IndyCar, [I had a] good first year. And then unfortunately the last two years didn’t go so well. But certainly, some fond memories from the beginning of it, and it was a hell of an experience.”

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Since 2017, Hawksworth has raced sports cars full-time in IMSA’s GTD and GTD Pro classes and has competed for Vasser Sullivan since 2019. The team won the GTD Pro IMSA championship in 2023, and Hawksworth has won 11 races as a driver or co-driver for the team, most recently at Sebring International Raceway earlier this month.

“Winning [the 12 Hours of] Sebring last weekend was probably one of the highlights, just the way that whole race went down, and in finishing at night, going down right to the wire with the Ferrari and Corvette and coming out on top,” Hawksworth said. “That was probably one of the most special moments, and then winning the GT Pro championship last year.”

“… Doing it after I left IndyCar the end of 2016, I signed to race, the Lexus in 2017. … To build that program over a period of five or six years and then to finally win the championship in the seventh year. Because when we first started, we were not successful. We were back in the back, right? That first year, second year we got better, third year we started winning races. Fourth year we start winning more races, and then fifth, sixth, seventh year, we finally got that championship.

“To have been a part of building that with Jimmy [Vasser], Sully (James Sullivan) and the whole Vasser Sullivan team, and obviously Lexus, has been pretty amazing.”

As for his Truck start at COTA with TRICON last weekend, Hawksworth got the opportunity through his work in sports cars.

“I obviously worked very closely with TRD and with Lexus and Toyota on the sports car side of things,” Hawksworth said. “… This opportunity came up, I called Andy Graves (Technical Director for TRD in the US). I think it was just before the Rolex 24, he said that there’s an opportunity to come run this race, and I said, ‘yeah, absolutely I’ll do it.’ So, [I’m] excited to be back.”

The Truck race marked his first NASCAR start since 2019, when he competed for Joe Gibbs Racing in a Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In that race, Hawksworth started second, led five laps and finished 15th.

Hawksworth hoped that prior experience would work to his advantage ahead of the Truck race.

“I think there’s definitely knowledge from that race that hopefully I’ll be able to carry in, but it is a Truck, it’s not a Xfinity car; I’ve never driven a Truck before,” Hawksworth said before the race. “When I did that Xfinity race, we got quite a bit more practice before you actually went out and had to do the business. So I’m glad I’ve done that Xfinity race, feel like it sets me up well for this weekend, but I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be a challenge, that’s for sure.”

In the end, Hawksworth scored a sixth-place finish in his Truck debut at COTA, and he ran top five almost all day in what proved to be a career day for the TRICON organization as a whole.

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“[The race] was crazy,” Hawksworth told Frontstretch after the race. “Obviously, it was kind of a lot of restarts, a lot of stuff going on. From our vantage point, I felt we were pretty good. For kind of the first stint, middle stint, definitely wasn’t as fast as Corey [Heim], but I think on pace we were maybe second or third. The last stint I was fighting with the No. 98 (Ty Majeski) and got on the inside of him and just smoked the left rear tire. … That made the last 45 minutes pretty difficult, so I just tried to bring it home.

“Guys have obviously done a great job, TRICON Garage guys gave me a great truck for me to jump in and fight for it and to bring it home with a nice little finish.”

With such an impressive performance, could we see Hawksworth in NASCAR for more road course races in the future? He’s had fun competing in stock cars by his own admission, but as he told before the race, IMSA is his primary focus at the moment.

“Maybe [there’s more opportunities], you just never know,” Hawksworth said. “I enjoyed it when I did my Xfinity race, and I’d like to do more, but at the same time, obviously my big focus is on defending this championship in IMSA and all the work we’re doing there.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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