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Jones sweeps Indy Light races in St. Petersburg

The winning Dallara IL 15 Mazda is rolled away from the track. “This is the fastest car I’ve ever driven,’’ rookie Ed Jones says.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

The winning Dallara IL 15 Mazda is rolled away from the track. “This is the fastest car I’ve ever driven,’’ rookie Ed Jones says.

ST. PETERSBURG — Indy Lights, the top level in IndyCar's developmental series, started its season in St. Petersburg with significant changes to the design of the car.

The new Dallara IL 15 Mazda car, equipped with a 450 horsepower 2.0 liter engine, made its debut with fast results. Ed Jones, a rookie in Indy Lights, shattered the series record for fastest lap in Friday's qualifying session at 1:05.3193, more than a second ahead of IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe's mark in 2010.

Jones remained the dominant driver, sweeping the series races this weekend with Sunday's win.

"This is the fastest car I've ever driven," said Jones, who was the 2013 European F3 Open Champion. "It's got the right balance between power and grip."

The makeover of the car was done in large part to inject life into Indy Lights, which was down to four full teams and eight drivers two years ago. The previous car had remained the same since the series debuted in 2002 and had lost relevance with younger drivers who gravitated toward some of the European open wheel feeder series, where the cars are updated every 2-3 years.

"For sure the car is faster, I think with the new turbo engine you definitely feel a lot of torque in second, third and fourth," said Jack Harvey, a second-year Indy Lights driver who finished second in both races this weekend. "You feel like your head definitely hits the head rest a bit. You get a good sensation of going fast.

"I don't mean this in a detrimental way, but compared to last year's car this is a real race car. The changes you want to make is what they're doing in IndyCar, what they're doing in Europe, as well. Last year's car was older and had probably seen the best of its days. This car is just a step forward in every way."

Alberico stays on top: Neil Alberico spent most of the offseason securing funding for his second season in Pro Mazda. He returned to St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports in February and decided to go through private testing rather than participate in the Winterfest Championships.

It did not matter.

Alberico was dominant, taking both season-opening races. On Sunday, he was never threatened, finishing nearly a second ahead of Jose Gutierrez.

"We didn't get much testing in the offseason, since the deal came together at the last minute," Alberico said. "We were a little behind the eight-ball, since the other drivers had more time behind the wheel and more momentum. For me, just to be on the grid to start the season was going to be great. So to have this kind of result for everyone who has supported me was incredible."

Trucking along: Bruce Jenner won Sunday's Stadium Super Truck race, beating Keegan Kincaid and Robby Gordon.

Kincaid and Gordon moved to second and third, respectively, after Sheldon Creed and EJ Viso got hooked together during a heated battle toward the end of the race. Creed and Viso continued racing while their trucks were stuck.

"What a bunch of knuckleheads," Gordon said. "It was gnarly."

Eidson remains perfect: Jake Eidson completed a weekend sweep in the USF2000 series by winning Sunday's race. It was solid start for Eidson, who finished first in both practice sessions on Friday, as well as Saturday's qualifier.

Jones sweeps Indy Light races in St. Petersburg 03/29/15 [Last modified: Sunday, March 29, 2015 9:20pm]
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