FAST TRACK When Raphael Matos and the de Ferran Dragon Racing team return to Chicagoland this weekend they will be looking to pick up where they left off a year ago. Matos made a strong run to finish ninth in his IZOD IndyCar debut at the track.
When Raphael Matos and the de Ferran Dragon Racing team return to Chicagoland this weekend they will be looking to pick up where they left off a year ago. Matos made a strong run to finish ninth in his IZOD IndyCar debut at the track. Matos had raced there one previous time and created a nice memory. The young Brazilian started on pole, led for 66 laps before finishing third to claim the Firestone Indy Lights crown in the 2008 season finale. Boosted by the series title, Matos joined the de Ferran Dragon team a few months later as it's full time driver. And now he has a teammate as Davey Hamilton rejoins the team for a second time this season. "We go back to a 2-car operation in Chicago," managing partner and team president Gil de Ferran said. "It's only a two-day weekend, which means we have a lot to accomplish in a short period of time. We have put together a good crew. We hope to be competitive in Chicago like we were in Indianapolis."
Davey Hamilton returns to the cockpit of the HP de Ferran Dragon #21 car and will be making his second start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season in Chicagoland. It will be his first multi-race schedule since having his season and career derailed in 2001. Hamilton has never raced an IndyCar at the Chicagoland Speedway. He was scheduled to race three races, including Texas, but that plan was altered following Indianapolis. "It was always on the cards that Davey would drive again for us this season," Gil de Ferran said. "Obviously, he was scheduled to run in Texas, but the accidents in Indy ruined that plan, now we will have him in Chicago. He really helped us a lot in Indy and I am sure the same will be true in Chicago. I wish we could run two cars full-time as this is very important to a team's competitiveness with the current testing restrictions."
It goes down as his second IndyCar race of the season, but with only two turns completed at the Indianapolis 500, Hamilton enters with no race laps completed. IndyCar race laps that is. Hamilton has raced five times this season in supermodifieds and sprint cars, including last Saturday when he was the fastest qualifier and finished third in the USAC Western Sprints in Roseville, CA. "They're completely different cars, but any time you race it's good. You don't have pit stops and the cars aren't as fast, but it's racing experience and any time you're behind the wheel it's healthy."
You can say Raphael Matos will be particularly happy to see Hamilton return to the track. "He's a big time help and I really like having him around," Matos said. "Everyone on the team enjoys having him around and he brings a lot of experience to the table. There's no question he'll help raise the bar for the whole team."
LAST YEAR IN CHICAGO
In one of the most dramatic races of the season, one that featured 18 lead changes, Raphael Matos recorded his third consecutive top 10 finish by crossing the line ninth in front an edge of your seat crowd at Chicagoland Speedway. After a weak qualifying run on Friday, Matos started 17th, but predicted that he would have a much better racecar. He was right. The Brazilian native, buoyed by strong pit stop performances from the de Ferran Dragon crew, climbed as many as 13 positions to fourth place. When he reached the top four with two laps left, he couldn't help but think a podium finish was within reach, but was forced to lift when battling for position with Graham Rahal.
Raceday at Chicagoland will have a little extra meaning for Raphael Matos this season. Matos will celebrate his 29th birthday at the track with his racing family on Saturday. Last year, Steve Luczo surprised him with an autographed jersey from Lance Armstrong, Matos' favorite athlete.
RAFA ON CHICAGOLAND
"I really like it in Chicago. I am excited to get back there. I have great memories having won the Firestone Indy Lights title there and we were very successful there last year. We had a strong car in the race. I am hoping for more of the same this year."
DAVEY ON RETURN
"I'm excited. It's really my first race since I didn't get the chance to race in Indy. The cool thing is that there are 29 cars on the track so the series is healthy. Our team is getting stronger and I'm looking forward to contributing and competing. We only have one hour of practice so I'll have to take advantage of the whole hour. It's going to be fun."
TOUCH OF SWEETNESS
Scott Simpson, a native of Battlecreek, MI, owes his start in racing to NFL legend Walter Payton. While working for National Mobile Medical Concepts in Lockport, IL, Simpson's boss counted Payton as one of his neighbors. During several visits to the house, Payton asked Simpson to "take the summers off and come play in racing." In 1994, he joined Payton Coyne Racing and his career in the sport began.
-source: de ferran dragon racing