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ESM team wins Sebring to cap Florida sweep

Quite a comeback: Austin Dillon celebrates his Xfinity series win at Fontana, in which he never led until the final lap.

Associated Press

Quite a comeback: Austin Dillon celebrates his Xfinity series win at Fontana, in which he never led until the final lap.

SEBRING — The ESM team capped a sweep of Florida's two crown jewel endurance races on Saturday night, winning the 12 Hours of Sebring by 2.926 seconds at Sebring International Raceway.

The quartet of Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani also won January's 24 Hours of Daytona.

On Saturday, Derani was third on a restart with 12 minutes left. He passed two Action Express Corvettes, first Filipe Albuquerque then leader Dane Cameron.

The winning Honda HPD Ligier completed 238 laps as the top eight spots were taken by Daytona Prototype cars. The race was red-flagged for 2 hours and 15 minutes because of lightning and heavy rain. It was the first red flag at the event since 1995.

The team is the first since Doran/Moretti Racing in 1998 to sweep both Florida endurance races.

A full-course caution set up Derani's frantic 20-minute drive. He passed the No. 81 Oreca-Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre on the restart and then ran down the two Action Express entries.

Corvette Racing also got a victory when the No. 4 team of Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler took the GTLM class. Milner beat the No. 25 BMW M6 team of Dirk Werner, Bruno Spengler and Bill Auberlen by three seconds to sweep the Florida races in their class.

Ferrari won the GT Daytona class when Jeff Segal, Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen won from the pole in the car's debut race.

The Prototype Challenge class was won by Colin Braun and CORE Autosport. The lineup of Braun, Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins beat PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports for the class victory.

Pritchett aims for Gatornationals glory

GAINESVILLE — Leah Pritchett hustled through her garage stall Saturday, bouncing from her dragster to her hauler and back again. She helped tear down the engine, packed the parachute and did a number of other little things to get ready for her next qualifying run at Gainesville Raceway.

She had no time to relax. And she had no plans to let up — even coming off a breakthrough victory last month in Phoenix.

Pritchett became the first woman to win in the NHRA's Top Fuel class since Hillary Will in 2008. Pritchett edged Brittany Force in the title bout, the first all-female final since 1982. Three weeks later, Pritchett is trying to show it was no fluke.

"I still have a lot to prove," she said at the Gatornationals. "Phoenix was just the beginning."

She stepped into the big leagues in 2013, driving part time for Dote Family Racing, then got a full-time ride when she replaced three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon at Bob Vandergriff Racing this season.

She made one final in three years with Dote. She topped that in two races with BVR.

Pritchett, 27, qualified fourth for today's finals; Richie Crampton topped the class with a run of 3.698 seconds at 319.37 mph. Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led in qualifying.

Xfinity: Austin Dillon passed Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez on the final lap of the Treatmyclot.com 300 and surged to an improbable victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Busch got within two miles of his record-tying fourth consecutive Xfinity win after leading 133 of 150 laps, but the defending Sprint Cup champ blew his left front tire while trying to save fuel. Suarez then briefly went in front but ran out of gas

Formula One: The series' new qualifying system faces an immediate revision after a woeful debut at the Australian Grand Prix that resulted in fans walking out on the anti-climactic event. Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the season opener in 1 minute, 23.837 seconds, edging Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. The new format of rolling eliminations every 90 seconds produced plenty of action early, but in the third and final segment most drivers elected not to go out on the track and instead saved their tires for the race. "The new qualifying format was pretty rubbish," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, a key player on the F1 strategy group that voted in favor of the new format.

ESM team wins Sebring to cap Florida sweep 03/20/16 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2016 1:30am]
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