Dino Crescentini, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., rocketed away from his second starting position and led all the way to take Sunday's Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg World Challenge Round Two GT class and overall win. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Todd Buras, of Daytona Beach, Calif., won GTS and Touring Car, respectively.
Driving the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3, Crescentini appeared to get away slow from the standing start, but had momentum to get past pole-sitter Randy Pobst's No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 as the field funneled into Turn 1. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Porsche driver, reversing his bad luck from Saturday's race, in which his new Porsche developed an electrical problem and retired. Crescentini took his third-career World Challenge series victory by 0.848sec over teammate James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif. He averaged 66.764mph in the race slowed by a pair of caution periods and limited to 50 minutes.
“The start was really scary for me, because the launch control wasn't working and I had to do it manually,” Crescentini said. “I haven't done that in a while. I had some luck on my side with Randy (Pobst, the pole sitter) slipping up and I took advantage of that. The car was so beautifully set up by the guys at GMG, as we saw in practice and qualifying. It seemed like every time I hit slower traffic, I was able to get by and whoever was behind me seemed to get held up, so I got really lucky.”
Sofronas started third in his No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 and ran behind Pobst and his teammate, Andy Pilgrim, in the opening stages of the race before Pobst pitted his car with overheating issues. On the race's second restart to retrieve Patrick Lindsey's crashed Porsche from Turn 12, Sofronas made his move by Pilgrim into second place, where he stayed for the remainder of the race.
“I made mental notes on where they dropped the flag yesterday for the restart,” Sofronas said. “It's tough to pass here and you have to take advantage of every opportunity. Jason [Daskalos] laid back on the first restart, but he didn't let me get a good run either. I changed my strategy on the second restart and things worked out better.”
Pilgrim, who finished second to Pobst on Saturday in his No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, held the third position for the rest of the event.
“This is a great start,” Pilgrim said. “We knew the GMG guys were going to be strong, the Nissans are going to be good, Daskalos and Wittmer in the Vipers – there's a lot of competition. I was hoping for two top-fives this weekend, I'm really thrilled with a second and a third.”
Jason Daskalos, of Albuquerque, N.M., finished fifth in his No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper, followed by Canada's Kuno Wittmer, in his No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper.
Rob Morgan (Porsche 911 GT3), Brian Kubinski (Chevrolet Corvette), Tony Rivera (Nissan GT-R), Jeff Courtney (Dodge Viper) and Tony Gaples (Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top 10. Rivera earned the MTM Special Ops Move of the Race in the No. 97 Nissan/Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R for his lap-26 pass on Courtney after following for several laps.
Sofronas' pair of podium finishes place him atop the Championship standings after two rounds, with 210 points. Pilgrim is second, with 204, followed by Pobst (198), Crescentini (192) and Wittmer (155). Volvo leads the Manufacturers' Championship, with 16 points, followed by Porsche (14), Dodge (four) and Chevrolet (one).
This weekend's GT results will remain provisional pending additional off-site technical inspections.
For the second straight day, Cunningham led start to finish in his No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX to capture the GTS-class win, the record-extending 34th of his career. While his Saturday run was never in doubt, Sunday was different, as teammate Brandon Davis pressured him in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX in the race's closing laps. Cunningham beat Davis to the checkered flag by just 0.544sec.
“It was the same track, one day apart but a completely different story today with the same result, thankfully,” Cunningham said. “It was just a whole different deal. Traffic played a role, the yellows played a role, and the leaders came through and affected our race. As they say, the traffic gods giveth and the traffic gods taketh away. Brandon [Davis] was on a charge and was coming quickly, and I was having to pedal as fast as I could to keep in front of him. I had a gap and he was closing, but traffic messed him up. Then, it screwed me up, and he was right there, so it was really exciting. But we hung on to take the win.”
Davis started last in the field after missing qualifying, but again worked his way up to second, setting the race's fastest lap, a record 1:25.687 (75.624mph) in the process. RealTime's third car, with Nick Esayian aboard, finished third. Kevin Helms (Honda Civic Si) and Michael Pettiford (Pontiac Solstice) completed the top five.
With his clean sweep of the weekend, Cunningham holds a 62-point lead over Esayian heading to Long Beach, 270 to 208. Davis is third, with 200, followed by Helms (178) and Pettiford (177). Acura leads the Manufacturers Championship, with 22 points.
After winning in his series debut on Saturday, Buras repeated the feat on Sunday, giving the No. 49 Irish Mike's Racing Volkswagen Jetta its second-consecutive World Challenge Touring Car win. After an eventful first standing start on Saturday, in which he accidentally had the car in reverse as the lights went out, Buras got away cleanly from his second-starting position, but fell to fourth as the field entered Turn 1, led by pole-sitter Mark Hein, of Clearwater, Fla. As the Touring Cars exited Turn 3, it found the GT Porsche of Patrick Lindsey sideways in the course. Buras picked his line and ended up passing Hein's No. 38 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Honda Civic Si for the lead in the melee.
"I went around Turn 1 at the start in fourth place,” Buras said. “I didn't get a very good launch and I had something in my gut that said something wasn't right. I stayed to the left and everyone else went to the right and the next thing I knew I was two or three cars ahead of my next competitor.”
Multi-class racing favored Buras later in the run, when the full-course caution came out for Lindsey a second time and the overall leader, Dino Crescentini, split Buras and Hein. Buras was able to circulate around to the back of the pack, giving him nearly a one-lap lead over second place.
“When the yellow came out the second time, the GT leader was right on my rear quarter panel,” Buras added. “When the double yellow flew, he slammed on the brakes and I didn't, so we just got a fortunate break there. The car was great, though. Irish Mike's Racing put together an amazing car. From yesterday to today we got some rewards weight and made a bunch of changes to the car, and it was just rock solid. We were happy.”
With Buras well ahead, Hein and 18-year-old Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., waged an exciting battle for the remainder of the race, swapping positions several times until Stout finally put his No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC ahead for good.
Buras leads Stout in the Touring Car Championship 264 to 218, followed by Hein (199), Gardner (177) and Meyer (172). Volkswagen leads the Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship, with 18 points, to Scion's 14, Honda's seven and Mazda's four.
This weekend's races will be broadcast Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. ET on Versus. The series next travels to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the Toyo Tires World Challenge Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Bondurant.