Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Jack Hawksworth’s unexpected NASCAR adventure

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When last week started, Jack Hawksworth didn’t know he would end it by making his NASCAR debut.

That changed Tuesday morning when the 28-year-old British sports car driver received a text from a friend at Toyota letting Hawksworth know a seat was waiting for him at Joe Gibbs Racing, a result of Jeffrey Earnhardt’s departure.

Hawksworth was in Chicago, on a brief vacation from his full-time job competing in IMSA before he was going to fly home to England for the first time in weeks.

Instead, he found himself flying to Charlotte, North Carolina, later on Tuesday. Waiting for him was a couple of hours in the Toyota Racing Development simulator, a seat fitting, a NASCAR mandated drug test and a JGR crash course in the world of NASCAR.

It was “completely, absolutely nuts,” Hawksworth told NBC Sports of his whirlwind week. It was all made possible due to his work with Lexus and TRD over the last three years in IMSA.

Hawksworth said a potential NASCAR opportunity “had been talked about” earlier in the year “but it obviously had never come to fruition at any point.”

Three days after receiving the text message, Hawksworth arrived in the garage at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a track he’d competed on in IndyCar and just four months earlier in IMSA, where he had won in the GTD class.

But walking into the NASCAR garage for the first time – for his first NASCAR event in any capacity – brought about a feeling he hadn’t had since late 2011 when he first visited the U.S.

“It literally felt like I was just arriving in America again,” said Hawksworth.

The Basics

With the help of crew chief Ben Beshore, the rest of the No. 18 team and his teammates in Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones, Hawksworth spent two practice sessions Friday figuring out how to handle a stock car.

“I was able to jump into basically a plug-and-play situation were everything was ready to go,” Hawksworth said. “The mechanics were on the ball with everything. Ben was able to get me up to speed with everything, explain how everything worked within the series.”

Hawksworth described the “huge difference” between NASCAR and what he’s used to driving in a Lexus sports car around the same track.

“Suddenly the braking zones were double the length of what I’m used to and the corner speeds were much lower,” Hawksworth said. “I found the car quite easy to overdrive, so I have to basically rein it in a little bit, so I have to slow myself down and kind of back up my entries to the corners and try to drive to the limit of the vehicle.”

He also had to get acclimated to a manual H-pad transmission.

That’s one of the areas Bell and Jones provided insight on, as well as how to navigate the pit road speed limit.

“It really was a good atmosphere within the team,” Hawksworth said. “The accommodation of the three of us really helped us lift our game up.”

It all led to Saturday, where a “confident” Hawksworth put the No. 18 Toyota on the front row, qualifying second to Austin Cindric.

“I didn’t really have any pre-conceived idea of how the race would play out or how qualifying would play out,” Hawksworth said. “I was just trying to approach it with an open mind and do the best job that I could.”

As the field rode around the track during the race’s warm-up laps, Hawksworth experienced a surreal moment that reminded him of his childhood.

Jack Hawksworth navigates Mid-Ohio. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

“I used to have a game which I had on my computer when I was little, I think it was ‘NASCAR 95’ or something like that,” Hawksworth said. “The view inside the car as I was doing the warm-up lap reminded me of that computer game, especially when you got Austin’s No. 22 accelerating next to me and it would pop up just outside my left window net.”

Welcome to NASCAR

Once the green flag dropped, Hawksworth was all business.

“I knew it was a 75-lap race. I just wanted to get through the first lap and hold position,” he said. “Once I got through Turn 1, I just wanted to settle into a rhythm really, try to evaluate how the car was, just like I would in any other race.”

It wasn’t a flawless first stage for Hawksworth. On Lap 15, while trying to hold third place, he was hit from behind by Cole Custer in the final turn, which resulted in both cars going around, but they were able to continue.

Hawksworth finished outside the top 10 in the first stage after most of the leaders stopped to pit before the stage concluded.

He would have a much more enjoyable second stage. On the initial restart, he made a three-wide pass to move into fourth.

Two restarts later on Lap 37, Hawksworth cleared Bell for the lead entering Turn 3 as a multi-car wreck unfolded in Turn 2. Three laps later, he claimed the stage win under caution.

“I felt like I was beginning to understand the restarts,” Hawksworth said. “I was beginning to understand how the other guys were racing. In the end it felt like we were in position to compete and have a go at trying to win the race.”

Then the day fell apart.

A slow pit stop resulted in Hawksworth restarting deep in the field where the racing was like a “dogfight.”

He went off course on Lap 67 while ninth and got grass on his grille, which would take a toll on his front brakes.

“End of the race kind of a bit of a write off,” said Hawksworth, who brought the No. 18 Toyota home in 15th.

He didn’t have much time to stick around. Hawksworth left the track for a two-and-a-half hour drive to Detroit for a seven-hour flight to England, followed by the drive to his apartment in Bradford, where he discussed his weekend via phone.

At home, he took the time to watch his NASCAR debut on TV, where he got a kick out of seeing “cars going around with half the body work missing.”

What stood out to him days removed from the event?

“I really enjoyed the experience and it was just something completely unique and completely different atmosphere to anything that I’m used to,” Hawksworth said. “To pinpoint one weird thing is difficult because everything felt strange.”

Hawksworth is definitely open to stepping into the NASCAR world again if the opportunity arises. It won’t be next weekend at Road America, as that conflicts with an IMSA race. Matt DiBenedetto will be driving the No. 18.

But when NASCAR races on the Charlotte Roval on Sept. 28-29, there’s no IMSA conflict.

“I feel like I’d go in there with experience and with a race underneath I think we could go in and be serious contenders to win,” Hawksworth said of a hypothetical second start. “I’d relish the chance to have another crack at it.”

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Results, point standings after Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio

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Austin Cindric claimed his second Xfinity Series win in a row Saturday with his victory at Mid-Ohio.

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger, Tyler Reddick and Noah Gragson.

Cindric is the fourth Xfinity regular with multiple wins this year.

Click here for the results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the series with a 28-point advantage over Bell.

The top five is completed by Custer (-105 points), Justin Allgaier (-156) and Cindric (-183).

Click here for the point standings.

Austin Cindric wins Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio

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Austin Cindric convincingly won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio, leading 46 of 75 laps to earn his second straight win a week after he claimed his first career Xfinity victory at Watkins Glen.

Cindric led the final 13 laps and beat Christopher Bell by 3.7 seconds for the win. A native of Columbus, Ohio, the win comes at his home track.

The Team Penske driver won from the pole and is the first Xfinity regular to win back-to-back races this season. He’s also the ninth driver to earn their first two career wins in back-to-back races.

“It feels so good,” Cindric told NBCSN. “Hell of a job to Christopher Bell, great job keeping me honest all day. Man, it feels good. Two in a row. … Going for three at Bristol. I’ll probably go crazy if I win there. We got a little work to do to figure that place out.”

The top five was completed by AJ Allmendinger, Tyler Reddick and Noah Gragson.

Team Penske has now won two races in a row after going winless in the previous 28 races.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Jack Hawksworth claimed the stage win after passing Christopher Bell just before a caution came out on a restart with four laps to go.

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD  GOOD RACE: After earning a stage win, Jack Hawksworth went off track at least once in the final stage and finished 15th in his first career NASCAR race … Noah Gragson earned a top five after having his front and rear bumpers mangled in a Lap 36 crash … Christopher Bell earned his best career finish on a road course. He has finished second in the last three races and in the top three in the last six races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: In his first NASCAR start, Chris Dyson was eliminated when he rammed into the back of Cole Custer’s car on a restart in Stage 2. Custer’s car was unharmed … Scott Heckert brought out a caution with 19 laps left when he plowed into a tire barrier … Regan Smith finished 21st in his first start of the year after an incident with Lawson Aschenbach with 11 laps left.

WHAT’S NEXT: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 16 on NBCSN

 

Austin Cindric wins Xfinity pole for Mid-Ohio

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Austin Cindric has won the pole for today’s Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Cindric claimed the pole, his second of the year, with a speed of 96.506 mph. The pole comes a week after he earned his first career Xfinity Series win at Watkins Glen International.

Cindric sat on the pole for this race last year. He led 59 laps and finished second.

Team Penske has won the pole for four of the last five Mid-Ohio races, including the last three.

Cindric will be joined on the front row by Jack Hawksworth (96.169 mph), the former IndyCar driver who is making his first NASCAR start driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

The top five is completed by Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe.

NASCAR on NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will start sixth.

Regan Smith, who is making his first start of the year, advanced to the final round but was unable to complete a lap due to a brake issue.

Both Tyler Reddick and Justin Haley went off course during the first round but were able to continue.

Click here for the results.

Today’s Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio: Start time, lineup and more

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The Xfinity Series’ road course schedule continues today at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Can Austin Cindric go back-to-back following his first career win last weekend at Watkins Glen? He finished second here last year after leading 59 of 75 laps.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 2:54 p.m. by Ben Mast, CEO of B&L Transport. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:05 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 8 a.m. Qualifying (multi-car, two rounds) is at 11:40 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:47 p.m. by Dwight Mason of Newpointe Community Church. Patty and Katie Schwall will perform the National Anthem at 2:48 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 75 laps (165.35 miles) around the 2.258-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 20. Stage 2 ends on Lap 40.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies, a temperature of 80 degrees with no chance of precipitation at the race start time.

LAST TIME: Justin Allgaier beat Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric

STARTING LINEUP: Click here