Lutz competitor able to ignore lights

Published April 4, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Charles Espenlaub couldn't help but smile each time he saw the stop light on Third Street N as he competed in Sunday's SCCA Touring Car race.

"One turn it was green, the next it was red," Espenlaub said. "It's exciting knowing you can drive that fast down these streets legally. I am sure there are plenty of judges who still remember my name from driving a little too fast on these streets back in the days."

The Lutz resident finished seventh. Pole-sitter Randy Pobst (No.73) won the race.

Espenlaub, who qualified 11th Saturday in the No.7 Mazda Protege, said St. Petersburg outdid itself for the event.

"Everything was done right to promote the city," he said. "It was also exciting seeing friends and classmates from my high school days. I don't usually get to do that because I travel so much."

PAULY DRIVES: Pinellas Park's James Pauly was awarded an exemption and allowed to participate in the Touring Car race.

Pauly was originally eliminated from the race because his qualifying time of 1:32.834 was greater than 110 percent of the average time of the top three qualifiers.

But SCCA Pro Racing officials granted the local driver the exemption because his time was only a second off the pace. He finished 19th, three laps down.

Mark Hein of Clearwater was 13th.

DQ: The No.18 Audi of Chip Herr was disqualified from second place in the Touring Car race. An illegal manifold was discovered in postrace inspection.

Also, Dino Crescentini was treated and released from Bayfront Medical Center after getting into an accident on Lap 20.

ARCHER WINS WITH VIPER: Porsches dominated practice and qualifying for the SCCA Grand Touring race, but Tommy Archer 's No.1 Dodge Viper won the race.

Archer, who started third, was behind pole-sitter Wolf Henzler at the start but made a move for the lead in Turn 10 just as a full-course caution was called. Archer maintained the lead and won at an average speed of 62.198 mph. The race was cut from 32 laps to 29 because of five cautions. Robin Liddell (No.66) and Lou Gigliotti (No.2) ran second and third, respectively.