Pro Late Or Pro Cup, It's Matt Hawkins Who Wins Again   by Amy Hayes
19-Year-Old Claims Victory In Pro Late Model Event at Lanier National Speedway
Pro Late Model teams from across the Southeast, flocked to Lanier National Speedway (GA) Saturday night for a $4000-to-win feature as part of the Super Six Series.  There was a Georgia Asphalt Series race just down the road a few hours in Cordele, GA, but Lanier won the battle of the car counts, 29 to 23. 

The amount of cars at Lanier seemed to equal the total number of cautions the event, so maybe there is something to be said about car counts. 

But, in the end, those cautions weren’t enough from stopping short track hot shoe Matt Hawkins from claiming his first-ever win at Lanier. 

Interestingly enough, Hawkins wasn’t even supposed to be racing at Lanier on Saturday.  The No. 22 team brought two cars to the track - one of which was sold to Cole Langford prior to the race.  Hawkins shook down both cars in a pre-race test and decided to stay behind the wheel of the sold racecar during the race, just to see how things would turn out.

Safe to say, things turned out just fine.  On lap 77, Hawkins moved past race leader Joey Senter to claim the win.

“It was a last-minute thing to come race here,” said Hawkins.  “Cale Langford bought my other Pro Late Model, the one that we ran some ASA races with, and we came to test it and help get everything set up.  We were really good during the test, and the car drove so good that we decided we just wanted to go ahead and stay out here and race.  

“We just threw everything together on Thursday, and the guys really worked their butts off and it definitely paid off.  We finished second here last time, so it felt really good to be able to come back here and finally win.” 

While there were 29 cars in the field up front it was a four-man race.  Senter, Hawkins, Paul Kelley and Chris Whorton were in a race of their own, leaving the rest of the field to have yellow fever behind them.

“I wish that we could have had some more long runs,” added Hawkins.  “Joey just seemed to fall off there at the end, and we were finally able to get by him.  The caution flags hurt us a lot.  It didn’t seem like we ran more than five green flag laps at a time but we were able to get it done.”

Once Hawkins was out front, second place running Paul Kelley tried to take some looks under him  but was never able to get by.  He eventually had to forget about catching up to Hawkins and start worrying about third-place running Chris Whorton who was hot on his tail, trying to get up front as well. 

“I think we would have had a shot,” said Kelley.  “If it wouldn’t have been for Senter getting into me on a restart and getting me loose there, and then letting Whorton by me, I think that we would have had something for Hawkins.

“I could get up to Hawkins for a little while, but  it took a couple of laps to get going but his Ford was just way too much power for my Chevy.  There were a lot of cautions out there.  It hurt me in a lot of ways.  My car was better on the longer runs and we just didn’t get those.”

Whorton who was battling Kelley for second, is an Alabama native who made
the three hour trip to Lanier to compete in the event instead of the Birmingham
Super Series event, held a few hours down the road at Birmingham International

“It was a good race, we brought home the car in one piece and that is always a good thing,” said Whorton.  “The competition here was great.  That is the reason we come all three and half hours from Boaz, Alabama to race here.  We ran a lot of races last year but not for points, this year we are going for the points.”

He got a good start in the points for the Super Six Series after finishing in the third position behind Hawkins and Kelley.

“That was just awesome racing up front with Paul (Kelley),” added Whorton.  “We go a long way back.  He races hard but he races clean.   Her got up under someone and got loose a little bit and I was able to pass him on the outside and then on the restart. I just couldn’t limit myself.”

“My spotter was telling me not to try Hawkins on the outside but you don’t ever know until you try, so I tried it.  I got up beside him but he just had an awesome car and I couldn’t do anything about him.  He is a good driver, and I wasn’t going to stand in his way.”

There wasn’t anyone standing in Hawkins way on Saturday night.  While he may not be competing in the Super Six Series full time, he made sure that nobody in the Pro Late Model world is going to forget his name anytime soon.

Matt Hawkins found himself in Lanier's victory lane for the first time in his career.
Paul Kelley's car was fast, but not fast enough to catch Matt Hawkins.