MILWAUKEE (AP) — The line formed to the right to talk to Jack Hawksworth.
So much has changed for the 24-year-old IndyCar driver in such a short time. Last season, he didn’t even have a ride until March.
Now he’s attending conventions and auto shows after joning A.J. Foyt Racing in the fall to drive the team’s second car. It is quite the follow-up to a promising rookie campaign.
“The amazing thing is, to think at this time last year, I wasn’t even going to be racing,” Hawksworth said before a recent appearance at the Milwaukee Auto Show. “And now I’m sitting here and I’m about to go into my second season at IndyCar with A.J. Foyt Racing.”
Nearby, the IndyCar series trophy sat on display on a table while attendees milled around a race car. For now, it might be the closest that the Englishman gets to the championship, though with five top-10 finishes last year, Hawksworth may not be that far away from being a top contender.
Racing for Bryan Herta Autosport, Hawksworth finished a season-high third in the second Houston race and was named the series’ Tony Renna Rising Star.
Foyt noticed. ABC Supply Co., the team’s longtime primary sponsor, agreed in October to back two cars in 2015 and 2016. For Foyt, the hope is that adding a second car will help the team become more competitive.
“When you take these guys running three or four cars, they get three to four times the information you get with one car. It really hurts the one car,” Foyt said. “I won’t ever run more than two … I think a two-car team — that’s what we want.”
Takuma Sato returns for Foyt driving the No. 14 car. Hawksworth will drive the No. 41 car.
“We’re calling ’em the young guns,” Foyt said about Hawksworth’s team. “He’s really young, the engineers are all real young. … I think they can be pretty tough. We just have to wait and see, you know?”
Hawksworth is itching to test with the team for the first time in New Orleans on March 14. He’s showing just the kind of work ethic that Foyt would like to see from young drivers.
Understandably, Hawksworth was a little nervous at first to meet one of the sport’s elder statesmen. Foyt retired from the driver’s seat in 1993 — two years after Hawksworth was born.
Hawksworth moved to Cypress, Texas, 15 minutes from the race shop in Waller, after signing with Foyt. He said Foyt and his family embraced him and has taken to Foyt’s sense of humor.
“He’s just a racer. I guess that’s what I liked about him,” Hawksworth said. “He’s down to earth, loves his sport.”
The expectations, Hawksworth said, are “hugely different.” Hawksworth is with a better-financed team. He’s looking to get better on oval tracks, with the first step seeing how his Honda-powered car adjusts to aero kits to be tested next week.
The Foyt team has “prepared in a completely different way with the two cars, twice as much data, twice as much personnel, if not more,” Hawksworth said. “We’ve done a lot of preparation over the winter. Last winter (for me), it was kind of thrown together at the last minute.”
The team owner and new driver share another link — each person had to deal with a heart issue last year.
Foyt, 80, had triple-bypass surgery on Nov. 12, two weeks after signing Hawksworth. Post-surgery complications forced him to stay in the hospital for nearly a month.
That was followed by a two-week stay in December for what was called non-life threatening complications. Foyt said he is well enough at least to spend three to four hours every other day in the shop, with the long-term goal to get back to the Indianapolis 500.
“I’m gaining every day, still a longs ways away, but at least I’m gainin’,” Foyt said.
Hawksworth bruised his heart after a nasty crash during a practice run last July at Pocono. He was released from the hospital four days later, and there have been no aftereffects from what turned out to be a minor injury.
“I don’t think it changed the way I look at racing at all,” Hawksworth said. “If you race ovals, you either deal with it or you don’t. I just put it behind me.”
The season begins March 29 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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This article was written by Genaro C. Armas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.