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Josef Newgarden wins Indy Lights debut in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Josef Newgarden knew his Indy Lights debut would be as much about strategy as speed.

Through the first 11 laps of Sunday's race, Newgarden stayed safely behind the leader, Peter Dempsey, and any potential wrecks.

Then Newgarden made his move.

On Turn 5 of the 12th lap, Newgarden mashed the gas pedal, swerved inside and pushed his car past Dempsey's. By propelling to the front in what turned out to be the only lead change of the race, Newgarden powered his way to victory in 56 minutes, 11.0037 seconds. Conor Daly was second in 56:11.8589 and Dempsey fell back to third in 56:14.1388.

"Our attack strategy was take what you can get," Newgarden said. "It was a long race and we wanted to conserve the car. I could tell Dempsey was starting to lose his rear end on Turn 12. He made a mistake and we were able to make a move."

Esteban Guerrieri started on the pole, but was overtaken by Dempsey on the first lap. Dempsey appeared to have control and maintained a one-second lead over Newgarden through the first 11 laps.

"It got a fantastic start, it was a first-ever roll-in start," Dempsey said. "I thought once I get inside these top three cars would run a bit fast and try to chase each other and they did. I led for the first 10-15 laps and the tires let off a little bit."

It was quite a day for rookies in the Indy Lights race as they took the first 12 spots.

All in a Daly's work: Daly's runner-up finish in Sunday's Indy Lights Series race marked a commencement — and not a capper — to his day.

Roughly four hours after placing second in the 45-lap race, Daly boarded a flight from Tampa International Airport to England to begin a three-day test at the Silverstone Grand Prix with his British-based GP3 team.

"I get there (this) morning and I believe I'm in the car Tuesday or Wednesday," said Daly, who rose at 6 a.m. Sunday. "Can't wait."

The whirlwind itinerary won't be Daly's last of the season. After the second race of the Indy Lights season at Alabama's Barbor Motorsports Park on April 8-10, he'll immediately fly to Barcelona for a three-day GP3 test.

Leapfrogging: Petri Suvanto won the second race of the USF2000 series Sunday, beating rival Spencer Pigot by 1.311 seconds.

Suvanto and Pigot spent the weekend trying to pass each other for wins — and points. On Saturday, Pigot started from the pole and won the first of two races by 0.515 seconds over Suvanto. Pigot also vaulted ahead of Suvanto in points, 79-73.

It didn't last.

Suvanto, who earned the pole by recording Saturday's fastest lap, reclaimed the top spot in points, 106-104, by winning Sunday's race.

Shannon McIntosh, who is racing for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports, finished 13th Sunday.

belleair's Long wins again: Belleair resident Patrick Long completed a weekend sweep by winning his second World Challenge GT race.

Long, a two-time American Le Mans Series champion, entered the World Challenge as a late addition this week. On Sunday, he took the lead on Lap 30 and beat James Sofronas by 0.627 seconds.

Eric Foss won the GTS class and Tristan Hervert took the TC class in Sunday's race.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com.

Josef Newgarden wins Indy Lights debut in St. Petersburg 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 11:05pm]

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