JACK Hawksworth, who was thinking about ditching motor racing to become a personal trainer last winter, has won a prestigious award in his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series campaign.

The 23-year-old from Cullingworth has been presented with the Tony Renna Rising Star Award in the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.

It is a remarkable turnaround for the Yorkshireman, in which he and Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) punched well above their weight.

Hawksworth had already returned home when he was summoned back stateside by BHA founder and co-owner Herta, who was impressed by a test outing and believed in his potential.

The gifted Bradford-born driver was quick to repay his new team boss' faith, making an immediate impact by qualifying an excellent eighth on his debut at St Petersburg among esteemed and experienced company.

In so doing, he outpaced no fewer than nine IndyCar race-winners and two Champ Car Champions – and at Long Beach two weeks later, he lined up fifth.

Indeed, Hawksworth reached the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying on three occasions and went on to race wheel-to-wheel against some of IndyCar's biggest names.

In the Grand Prix of Houston, for example, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) SuperStar withstood a relentless attack from former Formula One front-runner Juan-Pablo Montoya to tally his breakthrough IndyCar podium.

What's more, he did so from 23rd and plum last on the starting grid in his 650bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater, enhancing his already burgeoning street-fighter reputation.

An even better result looked to be on the cards in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, where – after qualifying a superb second – Hawksworth belied his rookie status to snatch the lead on lap two and consummately control proceedings until an ill-timed caution period cost him his advantage.

Other stand-out showings included Detroit – where he ran a challenging second until his brakes betrayed him – claiming an admirable 13th on the grid for the iconic Indianapolis 500 and securing a top-ten oval finish at the Milwaukee Mile.

The 2012 Star Mazda Champion and 2013 Indy Lights race-winner received his award at the glittering end-of-season championship celebration in downtown Los Angeles.

"Jack demonstrated that he is a worthy recipient of the award by not only his skill and determination, but also his sportsmanlike attitude toward the sport and his fellow drivers," said IndyCar president of operations and competition Derrick Walker.

Hawksworth added: "It was an honour to receive the Rising Star Award, particularly given how well-respected Tony (Renna) was within the paddock.

"It was nice to get the recognition for the effort that the BHA guys and myself have put in this year.

"It's been a hell of a ride – a real whirlwind! We were very quick in qualifying at the beginning of the season but were unfortunately unable to convert that pace and potential into concrete race results – whether that was due to getting caught up in other drivers' accidents, not quite getting the strategy spot-on or just plain bad luck in terms of reliability.

"That led to a few missed opportunities, which was obviously frustrating. But over the second half of the campaign, although we didn't have the same kind of one-lap speed in qualifying, we were much better at executing the races and fighting our way through the field, so it was something of a season of two halves. In the circumstances, I think we did a good job.

"I always believed I would be fast – if you don't think that, there's no point in even turning up – but IndyCar is a different world compared to anything I had done before.

"For starters, the cars are so much more technologically-sophisticated, bigger and heavier than in the junior formulae, and with no power steering, fitness is paramount – especially on the bumpy street circuits.

"The races are also very long and frenetic; there is invariably something going on and, with regular caution periods and strategy adjustments, you need to remain 100 per cent concentrated throughout.

"Overall, I think this has probably been the best season I've ever put together. Leading the race – dominating, in fact – at Indianapolis was a very special moment, as was making it into the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying for the first time at Long Beach.

"Reaching the podium in Houston is another great memory – everybody in the team was really chuffed with that – while to be as quick as we were at Milwaukee was tremendously encouraging, as that was the first time we were genuinely competitive on an oval."