Just a rookie on the Firestone Indy Lights Series, Jack Hawksworth has already won twice this year. But the happiness he felt over those victories did not compare to the elation of winning the pole for Sunday’s Indys Lights race at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Hawksworth, a 22-year-old native of Bradford, England, posted the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session, finishing a lap of the 2.02-mile course in 1 minute, 24.8128 seconds. That time was more than a half-second better than Carlos Munoz (1:25.3152), which exhilarated the precocious Hawksworth.
“This feeling beats any race or championship I’ve ever won, honestly,” he said. “Today was just amazing. It was a crazy session. Started off with everybody on all tires, and the pace was good, but we weren’t as fast as we would have liked. And then went to new tires. Balance wasn’t quite there and there was a lot of pressure, and we didn’t quite make it happen then. And then we came in and changed a couple of things and with two laps to get it done before the end, I think it was the same for everybody.
"Just managed to put a great lap in the end, and I’m just thrilled. The last three races have been for me, I just feel like I’m on top of my game, and the team’s giving me a great opportunity. It’s just fantastic. Today feels like the best moment ever in my racing career. It’s just a pole, but it feels awesome.”
The pole is Hawksworth’s second of the season. The last time he had the pole, he went wire-to-wire to claim the Toronto 100 at the Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place on July 13.
With 309 points, Hawksworth is in fourth in the race for the Indy Lights title and trails Munoz, the Andretti Autosport driver who had won three times and leads the standings with 349 points.
With just three more races remaining, Hawksworth knows the time to make a move is fast approaching. But Hawksworth said the pressure should not be on him, but on Munoz.
“Carlos has got a completely different mindset,” Hawksworth said. “He’s counting points, trying to secure this thing. That’s because he can. But at the same time, he’s starting on the outside. He’s going to be under pressure.
"My job is to really let those three in the championship do what they want to do out there, and I’m just going to drive away and hope that -- not that they come to blows -- the points situation works out well for me, and we have a great day. So is there any more pressure? I think there’s probably more on those guys to go. I’m feeling pretty relaxed. I’ve got nothing to lose.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun