Jack Hawksworth's first race in the No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda had about as many twists and turns as the 1.8-mile street circuit for the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.|
Hawksworth, who started 21st, finished eighth. But that's not the entirety of the story. The car sustained front-wing damage on the first lap of the 110-lap race and he had to come in for a service stop that dropped him to the rear of the 24-car field. An alternate fuel strategy employed allowed Hawksworth to lead five laps and be running third on two other occasions while others pitted for fuel and tires.
After making his final stop on Lap 95 and rejoining the field in 12th position, he overtook four cars in the final dozen laps to secure his sixth top-10 finish in 18 Verizon IndyCar Series races.
In his other top 10s in 2014, Hawksworth advanced a cumulative 49 positions, topped by placing third after qualifying 23rd in the back end of the Houston doubleheader.
The 13 positions gained relative to his starting spot were the most of the field. Luca Filippi, making his debut in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet, gained 10 positions to finish ninth. Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion who was driving the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, finished 17th after starting 22nd.
"That was a really fun race, really entertaining," said Hawksworth, 24, who moved to Cypress, Texas, late last year to be close to the team headquarters. "After the disappointment in qualifying, the guys really worked hard and found what was wrong and corrected it and gave me a fast car.
"The guys made good stops, got me in clean air and we finished in the top 10 from the back of the grid. I was really happy for the whole ABC Supply team. I don't think I've ever been so happy with an eighth-place finish before."
It also was the first race as a two-car team in a decade. Takuma Sato, who qualified fifth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, had contact on a Lap 32 restart while contending for sixth and pitted for a new front wing assembly that was supplied by Dale Coyne Racing. Sato fell to last place, but came back to finish 13th.
"Jack drove a great race, and Takuma did a good job to finish," A.J. Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt said. "Having two cars is a great help. With the short amount of testing that we had and then coming here, we saw huge benefits from it. It was really nice to be able to validate some things, and go in different directions.
"For example, when we had the problem with Jack's car in qualifying, if we were a one car team, we might have wondered if it was the setup or something mechanically with the car that could be amiss. Knowing that Takuma's car was good with a similar set-up was a huge help to us because we knew we needed to find something amiss with Jack's car. The multi-car team is already paying dividends."