MONTEREY, Calif. – Jack Hawksworth, the dominant driver in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship Series, picked up his record eighth victory of the year Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and secured the 2012 series championship.
Gabby Chaves, running hard on Hawksworth’s tail for the entire race, initiated a last-lap pass attempt that nearly collected both front runners.
Hawksworth survived the contact and was able to beat Chaves to the finish line for the victory.
“I reckon this is about the best day of my life so far and I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am,” said Hawksworth. “Gabby Chaves was right behind me the whole race and I couldn’t shake him, but he couldn’t get by either, so I was surprised when he suddenly appeared alongside me in the corkscrew and there wasn’t room for both of us.
“I knew I either had to let him by and win the race or go off in the dirt and keep my foot in it like Alex Zanardi did years ago. At that point I was determined to win, and so was he, so we were both off in the dirt, but we managed to keep the cars pointed straight and I stayed in the lead. It was a heart-stopping moment, but we got through it and this is just a tremendous victory for the Pelfrey team.”
Four drivers were in contention for the championship at the start of the race, and three of them finished on the podium. The remaining driver, Sage Karam, had an off-course excursion in turn six on two consecutive laps and dropped from his second-place starting spot to finish seventh in the race.
In addition to winning the race and setting a new Star Mazda record for the most victories and poles in a season, Hawksworth’s championship comes with the most coveted prize of any open-wheel driver development series – scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy worth more than $600,000 to move up and compete in the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights Series.
“I haven’t driven an Indy Lights car yet. I wanted to focus on getting the job done in Star Mazda and not tempt fate by dividing my attention,” said Hawksworth. “Perhaps between the end of the race tomorrow and the finale at Petit Le Mans I’ll have a bit of a think about what I want to do next year, maybe talk to some people. But right now I just got off the phone telling my family in England, where its three in the morning, that I’d won, and I’m off to be with my team.”