Saturday, January 20, 2018

Loss of pal brings tough race week for Wally Osinga

ST. PETERSBURG — On Saturday, Wally Osinga debuted in his hometown race, finishing 24th overall and 10th in the National Class in Saturday's USF2000 developmental series.

But the goals Osinga had were not related to wins and losses. For him, racing was inextricably tied to pain and loss last week.

On March 18, Dea Wiseley, one of Osinga's closest friends, died in a boating accident while racing in an exhibition regatta in Lake Dora. Osinga, 62, spoke at the funeral on Thursday.

"It was a horrible accident," Osinga said. "It's been a real tough week."

Osinga, a Seminole resident, and Wiseley met 43 years ago at a gas station. Wiseley owned a hydroplane and needed a mechanic for his boat. Osinga, who worked at the gas station, offered to help.

They became powerboat partners, racing in local events, including a regatta at Lake Maggiore. They decided to get out of the sport in 1988.

"We were becoming way too serious about it at the time," Osinga said. "It's always supposed to be something we did for fun."

But Osinga couldn't give up racing. He switched from boats to cars 10 years ago. Last week, he raced in his class at Sebring. He was home Sunday when he found out Wiseley had died.

"It was something that was completely unexpected and tough for me," Osinga said. "But I know (Dea) is with me this weekend."

Hot start for home team: The St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing took the top two spots in the first of two USF2000 series races this weekend.

Spencer Pigot, who took the pole in Friday's qualifying, won Saturday's race, beating teammate Matthew Brabham.

Pigot led throughout the 21-lap race. Brabham, though, stayed close behind and closed the gap midway through the race after a full-course caution when Scott Hargrove hit the wall in Turn 10.

Brabham was within striking distance at the restart but was never able to pull ahead of Pigot, who got his second win this year.

"It was a difficult race in the beginning and toward the end," Pigot said. "The middle section was pretty good. I was able to get through the traffic cleanly and stretch the gap a little bit to Matt (Brabham). After the yellow, we were close but I was able to hold him off for the win so I am happy about that. It's my second win of the year and I'm looking forward to (today) and trying to do it again."

Brabham and Pigot are the top two in the Championship Class driver standings after strong performances at Sebring last week. Brabham won the opening round while Pigot won the second race. Both have helped Cape Motorsports hold a commanding lead in the team standings.

Cape Motorsports also did well in the National Class with New Port Richey resident RC Enerson winning after passing Henrik Furuseth on Lap 8. Enerson finished ninth overall among the 43-car field.

"I had a really hard time chasing down Henrik," Enerson said. "He made a really good run on me at the start and then I basically had to catch, catch, catch. He is a good driver and I had to work to try to catch him. He got stuck behind lapped traffic and I was able to get around both going into Turn 4 and opened a gap for as long as I could. When the yellow came out, I managed to keep him behind and had to open up the gap until the checkered."

Shannon McIntosh, who lives in St. Petersburg, finished 11th in Saturday's race.

Exclusive company: Tristan Vautier, who took Saturday's Indy Lights race, became the 10th driver to win his debut in the series and sixth to win his debut in St. Petersburg. He joins an impressive list that includes Marco Andretti, Raphael Matos, Junior Strous, J.K. Vernay and Josef Newgarden.

Vautier, who won from the pole, handled three restarts and beat Esteban Guerrieri by 1.0391 seconds.

"Pole was a big advantage," Vautier said. "I just tried to hold Esteban for the first laps and take care of my tires."

Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4169.

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