By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
IMSA GTD racer Jack Hawksworth made the most of his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, finishing a respectable 15th in Saturday’s B&L Transport 170.
After joining Joe Gibbs Racing on a short notice due to the departure of Jeffrey Earnhardt, the British racer made the most out of his No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra. He was a top-tier competitor, setting the pace during Friday’s final practice and started second alongside Austin Cindric, who won the 75-lap race.
While the top-15 result didn’t reflect his effort due to multiple contacts and reliability issues, the 28-year-old got people talking in Stage 2. It wasn’t without controversy though as the decision as to who’ll get the 10 stage points came down to the video instead of scoring loops.
This occurred after a series of spins, debris and crashes on a late-stage restart in Turns 2-4, involving Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, David Starr, Aaron Quine and Stephen Leicht, who’s left rear was completely ripped off his No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
Hawksworth’s temporary teammate Christopher Bell got by the former Indy car driver in Turn 4, but the caution had come out and Hawksworth was already deemed as the leader. Bell thought he was the leader until NASCAR said he was scored second, so he tucked back in line as the Britain crossed the line behind the pace car as the stage winner.
He would lead five out of the 75 laps and described his day as a lot of fun, thanking both JGR and his WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team AIM Vasser Sullivan for giving him a crack at stock car racing.
“Thank you to Joe Gibbs Racing for having me, Toyota for putting it together and of course my team AVS in IMSA and Lexus for allowing me to come and do this and experience it,” said Hawksworth. “We had a lot of fun out there. Some good battles at the beginning. The first stint, kind of struggled with the rear tires a little bit and second stint we made it a little bit better and was able to come through on those restarts and get it to the lead. Felt pretty good about it and then I think we had a little issue on one of the pit stops and kind of put us back there.
“Then we got grass in the grill on one of the restarts and kind of lost the brakes and that was a little ‘all she wrote.’ I had a great time. The iK9 Supra was great and I just want to thank everyone for having me here. We’ll have to come back at some point and give it another try.”
While the next NASCAR opportunity is unknown, Hawksworth’s next IMSA race will be Sunday, August 25 at Virginia International Raceway for the running of the Michelin GT Challenge. The Gran Touring (GT) exclusive race will be a 2 hour and 40 minute feature with the race airing at 1:30 pm EST on NBCSN.