Serralles battles way to victory in Indy Lights season opener

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Felix Serralles took his second career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires win and the third straight Grand Prix of St. Petersburg triumph for Carlin Motorsport in the March 12 opening race of a doubleheader weekend to start the season.

Starting seventh, Serralles quickly forced his No. 4 car into second place, following Zach Veach to the front on the first lap. Veach pulled away and led the first 17 laps while Serralles bided his time in second place.

When the engine on Veach’s No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 suddenly shut off on Lap 18, Serralles screamed past and never looked back. The native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, drove flawlessly in the final 13 laps and took his first win since Milwaukee last year by 5.5336 seconds over Scott Hargrove of Team Pelfrey.

“I just had to keep everything clean,” Serralles said. “Qualifying didn’t really go to plan, the red flag really hurt our session.  

“It was a good result. I just tried to do everything right, minimize any mistake and save the Cooper tires. I could push to catch Veach, but my front tires were going away. I’m just really happy to get my first win to start the year.”

The Carlin team joined Indy Lights competition in 2015 and promptly sent driver Ed Jones to Victory Lane in both St. Petersburg races. Jones finished 10th in today’s race.

Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing, who sat on the pole but never led, finished third. The second race of the Indy Lights weekend is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. ET March 13.

O’Ward claims first place in Pro Mazda opener

Pato O'Ward, Aaron Telitz, and Jake EidsonPato O’Ward led wire-to-wire to claim his first Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires win in the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race of the season for the Mazda Road to Indy mid-level development series.

O’Ward got a clean start on his Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz and immediately pulled away from the pack. He extended his lead to more than two seconds and never put a wheel wrong the entire 40-minute race. He took the checkered flag 2.70 seconds ahead of Telitz, also making his Pro Mazda debut.

“I’m just speechless,” said O’Ward, the 16-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico. “I’m so happy for the team. The Pelfrey car was absolutely on rails, it was fantastic. … Everybody did such an amazing job and such hard work through the days coming to St. Pete. This one is definitely for them.”

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Jake Eidson and Nico Jamin finished third and fourth, respectively, ahead of Team Pelfrey’s third entry, Weiron Tan, who finished fifth.

Pro Mazda runs the second race of its St. Pete doubleheader weekend at 4:30 p.m. ET March 13.

Pabst Racing duo sweep USF2000 same-day doubleheader

Jordan Lloyd, Yufeng Luo, and Robert MagennisPabst Racing teammates Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo each claimed victory in a same-say doubleheader of races to start the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season.

Lloyd backed up his first career pole from the day before by winning his first race in the Priority Main Construction Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Later in the day, Luo made the pass for the lead on a late restart to win the Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The two races kicked off the 2016 USF2000 season.

In the first race, Lloyd motored ahead of the field on the green flag as a three-car crash broke out behind him. Parker Thompson was spun and T.J. Fischer and Max Hanratty crashed further back in the field.

Another truncated restart allowed for just 18 minutes of green-flag racing. Lloyd jumped away and cruised to an easy maiden victory uncontested. Luo finished second with Robert Megennis of Team Pelfrey third.

“It was definitely a hectic start,” said Lloyd. "It’s a great feeling being able to win the first race, big relief the car was faultless thanks to Pabst Racing."

Lloyd led most of the second race until passed by Thompson and Luo on a late restart. Luo then completed the pass of Thompson for the lead heading into Turn 10. Lloyd was able to regain second place before the race ended under caution.

“I had no idea that I was going to be able to get by those guys at the end,” Luo said. “Opportunity came and I took it. I’m just speechless right now.”

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