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Indy Lights sweep of St. Petersburg belongs to Junior Strous

ST. PETERSBURG — The Indy Lights race Sunday was anything but smooth.

J.R. Hildebrand was penalized for jumping the start, moving from first to third. Moments later, Duncan Tappy became the first car out, done after the first lap when he made contact with the tire barrier in Turn 4 to bring out a caution flag.

In the end, six yellow flags waved and 12 cars were taken out, including eight by contact.

Junior Strous, though, avoided the wrecks and the wreckers long enough to take the checkered flag for the secdon day in a row, beating Sebastian Saavedra by 0.4428 seconds.

Strous, a rookie, is the third driver to sweep the Indy Lights races at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, joining Raphael Matos (2006) and Alex Lloyd (2007).

"This was just an amazing weekend, an amazing day," Strous said. "I started second again. I had a good run, some great passing moves. All the guys drove so professional. We had a lot of yellows, but it was good. It was hot out there. We could cool the tires down, and on each restart we could give it all we had."

Saavedra, the pole-sitter for Sunday's race, led the first 32 laps. But a series of cautions cost him momentum.

That left Strous, a 25-year-old from the Winner's Circle Group team, in position to make a run for it.

On Lap 33, Strous overtook Saavedra for the lead. Strous' pass was similar to the one he made Saturday when he went by Hildebrand on Lap 21 to go ahead for good.

"It was pretty similar to (Saturday)," Strous said. "I think we had a restart, had a good run coming out of the last turn. I think coming out of it, what is it, Turn 14, we touched on the exit. I think I hit (Saavedra's) right tire with my left front wing. It was so close. We powered down the straightaway with good power."

Saavedra tried to make one final push on the last lap, but was unable to catch Strous.

"It was a much better day," said Saavedra, who finished 26th in Saturday's race because of mechanical problems. "I think we were able to get all the problems away and be very consistent the whole race. I think it was quite a yellow (flag) race to compete in, but (I'm) very happy.

"I think the points are the important thing right now for the start of the championship, and at the end this is what matters, points."

James Hinchcliffe finished third, Jonathan Summerton was fourth and Daniel Herrington was fifth. The top seven finishers were all rookies and the top five represented different teams.

Indy Lights sweep of St. Petersburg belongs to Junior Strous 04/05/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 9:08pm]
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