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Scott Hargrove sweeps USF2000 races

ST. PETERSBURG — Scott Hargrove put the disappointment of last year behind him, emerging as a threat to win the USF2000 championship after driving to victories in both races this weekend.

Hargrove started from the pole Sunday and led all 21 laps of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course to increase his points lead to 122-79 over rookie Wyatt Gooden.

"My race was phenomenal," said Hargrove, who also won Saturday. "The race was interesting due to the weather. We weren't sure if it was going to rain, and it was a relief that it was dry.

"Cape Motorsports gave me a great car all weekend."

Last year in St. Petersburg, Hargrove was caught up in two melees that damaged his car so much he had to put his debut in the series on hold.

"It was just a real blow financially to have those crashes," Hargrove said. "It kind of made everything askew."

After missing three races, Hargrove finished strong with three top-five finishes among four races to finish 11th in points.

Hargrove said his improvement is due to a new team.

In November, Hargrove signed with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, the powerful St. Petersburg-based team that runs up front and challenges for USF2000 championships annually.

"I feel blessed to be part of such a great team that is sound and knows how to win," Hargrove said.

Hargrove won both races by avoiding the pileups that caused him so much trouble last year. He completed Sunday's race in 26 minutes, 4.480 seconds. His best time was 1:13.822 in Lap 14.

"Last year was rough here," Hargrove said. "I was competitive. I just didn't have much luck. This year, the luck has gone my way. I hope it continues."

Elusive win: Jack Baldwin's resume includes wins in nearly every series at every major track.

But he had never won a GTS World Challenge race in St. Petersburg. Baldwin made up for it, sweeping both races this weekend. Sunday, Baldwin won with a fastest lap time of 1:20.555 and a top speed of 80.442 mph.

"The difference was the car," said Baldwin, who also won Saturday. "We worked on it until midnight. It was the best car I've ever driven. I don't care who I came up against. I was going to beat them. It was just that kind of day."

Baldwin, 64, grew up in Tampa and graduated from Hillsborough High (Class of 1966). He started racing when he was 13 at the now-defunct Tampa dragway.

"I'm having more fun now than in all my years of racing," Baldwin said. "I had a lot of guys I graduated from high school with here this weekend. It's a thrill to be able to win. I can say I certainly don't feel 64, and I know I don't drive like I'm 64."

Back on top: Matthew Brabham overcame a rough qualifier to cap a two-race sweep in the Pro Mazda series.

Sunday, Brabham started fifth among 12 drivers but quickly worked his way to the front. He finished in 25:30.657, more than six seconds ahead of Shelby Blackstock.

"We were just plodding and hoped the rain would stay away," said Brabham, who has won three of the first four races this season, including Saturday. "It was just a magical weekend for myself and for the team."

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

Scott Hargrove sweeps USF2000 races 03/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 7:03pm]
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