Race Weekend Central

Jagger Jones Sweeps VP Racing Challenge at St. Petersburg

FastMD Racing with Remstar’s Jagger Jones, in only his second race weekend in IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, scored a sweep of both races Saturday (March 9) on the Streets of St. Petersburg. They are the first-ever IMSA victories for FastMD Racing.

Race No. 1

Jones started from pole in his Duqueine M30-D08-Nissan. Woolridge was alongside, but had a terrible start and dropped to sixth by the first corner. It did not take long for Jones to pull out a three-second over Escuderia ABRO’s Miguel Villagomez.

Further back, a duel between Woolridge and Brian Thienes for fifth turned physical in the final turn nine minutes in. Contact was made, cutting Thienes’ right rear tire. The mess caused a stack up and allowed Cody Ware to move up to fifth. Thienes made it back to the pits and made repairs. He would eventually finish three laps down, seventh in class and 20th overall.

Performance Tech Motorsports’ Alex Kirby was eventually able to move up to second in lapped traffic, but missed turn 1 while trying to pass a couple of BMWs. That allowed Aghakhani to catch up and take second away.

Jones’ lead vacillated between three and eight seconds over Aghakhani, depending on traffic. Meanwhile, Kirby ended up in a three-way battle between himself, Villagomez and Ware.

Villagomez was able to make the move for third in turn 1. Ware tried to follow and contact was made. Ware spun and backed into the tires at pit out. A turn later, Kirby understeered into the concrete wall at the exit of turn 3 to bring out the full course yellow.

Ware was able to restart and was going to be able to drive back to the pits. Then, his car refused to turn and slid into the tires at turn 4 under yellow. Both Ware and Kirby walked away from their crashed cars, but were out of the race and unable to start Race No. 2.

The necessary cleanup meant that there were three laps to go when the green came back out. Jones was able to get away, but Aghakhani got held up by the lapped car of Thienes. That allowed Villagomez to pounce for second, but he went too fast into turn 4 and bounced off the tires.

Meanwhile, Jones was able to take advantage of Thienes’ presence to pull away once again. He was not threatened en route to victory.

Jones won by 4.637 seconds over US RaceTronics’ Steven Aghakhani. Performance Tech Motorsports’ Jonathan Woolridge was third, then Ave Motorsports’ Ryan Phinny. Mishumotors’ Mirco Schultis was fifth.

In the GSX ranks, Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare started from the pole in his McLaren Artura GT4. On the start, KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars was able to get past Jackson Lee, who is making a one-off appearance for van der Steur Racing, for second. A couple of laps later, Lee was able to get Mars back.

With Lee and Mars fighting for position, Lazare was able to run away in his McLaren. Lee ended up four seconds behind the McLaren and had settled in to a good position until the yellow came out for the Kirby-Ware crash.

The crash put Lee right up on Lazare’s rear bumper. In the final couple of laps, Lee put significant pressure on Lazare, but could not prevent the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge regular from taking the class victory in sixth overall.

Lazare’s margin of victory was .735 seconds over Lee’s Aston Martin. Mars was third, then Swish Motorsports’ Michael Dayton. Stephen Cameron Racing’s Sean Quinlan was fifth.

IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge: St. Petersburg Race No. 1 Results

Race No. 2

By virtue of his second lap in qualifying Friday, Jones had the pole for Race No. 2 Saturday afternoon. Woolridge was alongside again and got a better start this time. Aghakhani was a bit inpatient and ended up running into the back of Woolridge under braking for turn 1.

The contact damaged the left front corner of Aghakhani’s Ligier JS P320-Nissan, forcing him to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs. Aghakhani would continue two laps down.

Jones quickly pulled out to a four-second lead over Woolridge, but lost it when the first caution of the race flew just six minutes in. Turner Motorsport’s Vin Barletta went too fast into turn 4 in his BMW M4 GT4 and went head-on into the tire barrier.

Barletta was ok and even attempted to drive his BMW off the course to prevent the caution from flying, but it was too late to prevent it. The black M4 was heavily damaged and out on the spot.

When the green came back out, Jones set sail and attempted to run away from the pack. He would eventually have a six-second lead, but Woolridge was eventually able to cut into it as Jones encountered traffic.

Further back, Schultis had a race he’d like to forget. 15 minutes into the race, his car died exiting turn 10 and coasted to a stop. After a reset, he was able to continue, but not before losing a lap.

Later on, Schultis spun in turn 10 while trying to lap Dayton’s BMW. He was able to continue, but lost a second lap trying to get out of the runoff.

While Schultis was trying to resume, Thaze Competition’s Eddie Killeen went off into the runoff at turn 1 while trying to hold off Scott Blind. While in the runoff, Killeen’s Mercedes stalled and he was unable to restart, triggering the second caution with 16 minutes to go.

The green came back out for the final time with a little more than eight minutes to go. Jones was able to run off and hide. Meanwhile, the rest of the LMP3 leaders fought tooth and nail for position, which was all Jones needed to take the sweep.

The margin of victory was 3.815 seconds over Villagomez, who rose to second after Woolridge faltered in the final laps. Thienes recovered from his damage in Race No. 1 to finish third, followed by Phinny. Woolridge had to settle for fifth.

In GSX, Lazare started from the pole, but Lee managed to take the lead away on the first lap. Lee, son of NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee, drove off to a decent advantage before the caution flew for Barletta’s crash.

On the restart, Lazare made a move to the inside at turn 1 to try to take the lead back. The two drivers ran side-by-side through turn 2 before Lee was able to pull back ahead.

The two drivers proceeded to drive away from the rest of the GSX pack to settle things among themselves. Greg Liefooghe was third, but eight seconds behind.

The second caution closed everyone back up and Lazare got a run on Lee coming to the final corner before the start-finish line on the restart to take the lead. This was reviewed by the stewards as possibly being too early of a move by Lazare, but they determined that the move was legal.

Undeterred, Lee was able to run Lazare back down to fight for the lead. The duo fought for a while before Lazare was finally able to drop Lee. From there, Lazare held on for the weekend sweep.

The margin of victory for Lazare was 3.211 seconds over Lee. Liefooghe was third, then Mars and Split Decision Motorsports’ Patrick Wilmot.

IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge: St. Petersburg Race No. 2 Results

VP Racing SportsCar Challenge teams will be off for nearly three months. The third race weekend for the series will take place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course from June 7-9. Frontstretch will be on-site at Mid-Ohio to bring you all of the action.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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