Reigning United States Formula 4 champion Kyle Kirkwood took the honours in the season-opening USF2000 race at St. Petersburg with a dominant display.
Kirkwood, who started second alongside pole-sitter Jose Sierra on the front row of the grid, made what was the decisive move at the first corner on the opening lap, passing Sierra before a yellow flag was brought out due to an incident involving Manuel Cabrera, Igor Fraga, Oscar DeLuzuriaga and Zach Holden.
Cape Motorsports driver Kirkwood aced the restart and went on to build a gap over Sierra, pulling out a margin to win the 20-lap race by 5.4945 seconds.
Sierra was troubled for second in the race by US debutant and British F4 champion Jamie Caroline.
Caroline made his way past for second on lap eight of 20, before retiring from the race with a broken suspension following suspected contact at turn 10. His BN Racing team-mate Russell McDonough also retired from the race with the same issue.
Darren Keane rounded out the podium, despite starting in eighth, as drivers in front of him hit trouble. He finished ahead of Calvin Ming but was 10 seconds behind the race winner.
Alex Baron, Lucas Kohl and Kory Enders all served drive-through penalties due to jumping the sole restart. Baron, the race two pole-sitter, worked his way from the back to the top 10 before retiring from the race himself. He did, however, set fastest lap.
Julian van der Watt completed the top five, after starting from outside of the top 10, beating Colin Kaminsky and Bruna Tomaselli, who won the National Class at this event last year.
Kaylen Frederick, one of the title favourites and third fastest in qualifying, was in the pits by the third lap following contact, but worked his way up to 11th?at the finish.
Potential rival Igor Fraga recovered to a strong eighth-place finish after his first lap incident, passing cars on almost every lap.
Race results (20 laps)
1 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports 26m11.741s
2 Jose Sierra DEForce Racing +5.4945s
3 Darren Keane Newman Wachs Racing +12.2561s
4 Calvin Ming Pabst Racing Services +15.2582s
5 Julian van der Watt Team Pelfrey +15.5706s
6 Colin Kaminsky DEForce Racing +20.8132s
7 Bruna Tomaselli Team Pelfrey +23.1378s
8 Igor Fraga Exclusive Autosport +24.4335s
9 Kyle Dupell Team Pelfrey +26.6204s
10 Rasmus Lindh Pabst Racing Services +30.9835s
11 Kaylen Frederick Pabst Racing Services +35.5110s
12 Mathias Soler-Obel Sol.O Racing +36.2571s
13 Lucas Kohl Pabst Racing Services +36.7320s
14 Keith Donegan ArmsUp Motorsports +38.0968s
15 Sabre Cook Team Benik +44.6499s
16 Michael d’Orlando Team Benik +49.4592s
17 Jayson Clunie Exclusive Autosport +1m00.4669s
18 David Osborne Newman Wachs Racing +1m00.7602s
19 Kory Enders DEForce Racing +1 lap
20 Oscar DeLuzuriaga Newman Wachs Racing +2 laps
21 Zach Holden DEForce Racing +2 laps
Ret Alex Baron Swan-RJB Motorsports
Ret Russell McDonough BN Racing
Ret Jamie Caroline BN Racing
Ret Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport
Fastest Lap: Baron, 1m12.266s
1 Kirkwood 31? ?2 Sierra 26? ?3 Keane 22? ?4 Ming 19? ?5 van der Watt 17? ?6 Kaminsky 15? ?7 Tomaselli 14? ?8 Fraga 13? ?9 Dupell 12? ?10 Lindh 11