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Breaks lead Dino Crescentini to sports car victory

ST. PETERSBURG — Dino Crescentini will acknowledge that he won Sunday's World Challenge GT class because he caught some breaks.

Starting second, Crescentini appeared not to get to full speed in the standing start but still pulled away from pole-sitter Randy Pobst after the first turn.

Crescentini kept the lead, pursued by Pobst, until Pobst's car fell out of contention because of overheating. That opened things up for Cresentini, who won his third career World Challenge series race by 0.848 seconds over GMG Porsche teammate James Sofronas.

"The start was really scary for me because the launch control wasn't working and I had to do it manually," Crescentini said. "I haven't done that in a while. I had some luck on my side with Randy slipping up, and I took advantage of that. The car was so beautifully set up by the guys at GMG, as we saw in practice and qualifying. It seemed like every time I hit slower traffic, I was able to get by and whoever was behind me seemed to get held up."

It was a change of fortune for Crescentini, who had to retire his car early Saturday because of electrical problems.

"We had a problem (Saturday), and the most frustrating thing is, no one knows what it was," he said. "We've had the Porsche specialist down with us and the laptops plugged one into the other, and it fired up, and we don't know why. We were crossing our fingers that it worked (Sunday), and everything went really well."

Peter Cunningham won the GTS class, and Todd Buras was first in the TC class. Both completed weekend sweeps. Mark Hein of Clearwater finished third in TC.

Vernay wins in rain: Rookie J.K. Vernay mastered wet conditions to score a runaway victory in Indy Lights.

Vernay, who started second, finished 11.2338 seconds ahead of Jan Heylen in a race shortened from 45 laps to 35.

"I didn't know this track, so I had to learn a lot," Vernay said. "It helped with the work I did with my team. We had a great setup on the car. Practice after practice I was pushing more and more, and we were there, so it was good."

Vernay, who missed grabbing the pole position in Saturday's qualifier, stayed in control on a rain-soaked track and avoided two early mishaps.

The first came on the first turn after the green flag when pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe collided with Phillip Major. Soon after, Sebastian Saavedra, who led the first four laps, spun out in Turn 4 on Lap 5.

Vernay took the lead from there and never relinquished it.

"It was hard not to have the pole, but I was very careful on the first lap." Vernay said. "I didn't want to crash at the start of the race. It was great to win in my first weekend in Indy Lights."

Daly dominates Star Mazda: Conor Daly closed a dominating performance with a flag-to-flag victory.

Daly, who won from the pole, finished his 33 laps in 45 minutes, 24.821 seconds. His average speed was 78.479 mph.

"I had a good start, and I was focused on building a gap," said Daly, the son of former Formula One and CART driver Derek Daly. "The car was perfect the whole way. It was really an unbelievable feeling to race this well in front of all these people.

"This is my first time here, but it's already one of my favorite tracks."

Two local drivers, Hayden Duerson of St. Petersburg and Nick Andries of Pinellas Park, ran into trouble early and finished 20th and 21st, respectively.

Karam keeps going: Sage Karam continued his dominance in USF2000, winning Round 2 by 16.732 seconds over Josh Fielding.

Karam, 15, a rookie in the entry-level open wheel series, swept this weekend's doubleheader. He never trailed in either race and was the fastest driver in the morning and afternoon practice sessions Friday.

"I slept pretty good," Karam said. "The pressure was off a little (Sunday), but I knew I still had a job to do."

Andersen makes presence known: Andersen Racing was well-represented this weekend in Indy Racing League's ladder to the big league, known as the "Road to Indy."

The Palmetto company had five cars racing in the Star Mazda series and one in Indy Lights. Andersen Racing's sister company, Andersen Promotions, helps administer the USF2000 series.

Breaks lead Dino Crescentini to sports car victory 03/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:23pm]

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