Todd Buras and Irish Mike's Racing swept both Touring Car races at St. Petersburg.
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 One, led by polesitter Mark Hein, of Clearwater, Fla. As the Touring Cars exited Turn Three, 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 one 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 breaks 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.
Stout’s pass of Hein on lap 24 in Turn 10 earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race.
Driving the No. 36 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lepper & Associates Scion tC, Dan Gardner earned both the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start of the Race and the Sunoco Hard Charger award en route to fourth place. Eric Meyer finished fifth in his Mazda RX-8.
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 Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg will air on Versus HD on Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. EDT.
The World Challenge Championships return to the track for round three of 12 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 16-18.
Follow World Challenge on Twitter @ WCRacing.