Indy 500: Luczo Dragon Racing race preview

INDY 500 HISTORY While they have participated in only two Indianapolis 500 races to date, the Luczo Dragon Racing team has produced some significant results in their short history. They have one top 5 finish and two first day qualifying runs to...

INDY 500 HISTORY

While they have participated in only two Indianapolis 500 races to date, the Luczo Dragon Racing team has produced some significant results in their short history. They have one top 5 finish and two first day qualifying runs to their credit. When Raphael Matos starts 12th Sunday it will be the second consecutive year the team begins from row four. In their only race in 2007, Ryan Briscoe qualified seventh at 224.410 mph and finished fifth. In 2008, Tomas Scheckter also qualified on the first day, posting a time of 223.496 to slip into the 11th spot. He was running third with 44 laps remaining when a broken drive shaft spoiled a potential podium finish. Matos posted the fastest qualifying time (223.429) on Day 2 to earn the Fastest Rookie Award.

20TH ANNIVERSARY

It was 20 years ago when Emerson Fitipaldi won the Indianapolis 500. It's also been 20 years since Raphael Matos started watching "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" as a seven year old with his father in Brazil. Tough for a youngster to remember everything he saw, but each year he watched Matos grew more determined to enter the race one day. So, 20 years after watching his first Indy 500, Matos will join the starting field as the 12th qualifier, fulfilling a dream that started when sitting in front of the television next to his dad in 1989. His father, Sergio Eustaquio Filho, will make the trip from Brazil to see his son race in Indianapolis.

CONSISTENT QUALIFIER

Time will tell who wins the award for the most consistent qualifier at the 2009 Indianapolis 500, but Raphael Matos will be a prime candidate after a remarkable performance in his first Indy 500 appearance. The 27-year old rookie posted the second most consistent qualifying run in week one with just a 0.232 difference between his fastest and slowest lap. Matos had a top speed of 223.561on his first lap and slowest mark of 223.329 on his fourth. He recorded a 223.407 on his second and 223.417 on his third. Scott Sharp's qualifying effort was the most consistent in the field with a 0.134 difference between fastest and slowest laps.

VISUALIZING THE RACE

Prior to climbing into the car and firing up the engine, Raphael Matos spends the hours before a race visualizing what's going to happen on the track. "In Indy, you have to understand how much the track will change and the adjustments you have to make during the race. The car will feel a certain way in the beginning then change with the conditions. I try to visualize what those changes will be like then picture what position I'm in and who I'm racing against and the characteristics of those cars and drivers. The track gets better at the end of the race because there's more rubber, but that also means a lot of debris and marbles. You have to be careful where you place your car. I visualize all those things."

FASTEST ROOKIE

Raphael Matos became the 35th recipient of the Fastest Rookie Award when he posted a qualifying run of 223.429 Sunday, May 10. The 4-Lap average was the seventh fastest qualifying time overall and secured the 12th starting position for the #2 Air Force Luczo Dragon car. Matos joins a who's who of rookies who have won the award, including Rick Mears, Eddie Cheever Jr., Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti. Hideki Mutoh won the award in 2008. Matos was honored at the Fastest Rookie Luncheon May 19 at the Brickyard Crossing.

RAFA ON ADVICE FROM RICK MEARS AND GIL DE FERRAN

"They have helped a lot. You really need to go out there and experience the situations to really see what they're talking about. They give advice and then when you experience it

you can relate to what they said. The biggest thing is you have to respect this place; it's not forgiving at all. Rick and Gil emphasized that, especially in race conditions, in traffic."

LDR PIT CREW ASSIGNMENTS

Race strategist - Jay Penske; Engineer - Ray Leto; Engineer/Fuel data - Brian Page; Data engineer/Fuel deadman - Daniel Louks; Chief Mechanic/outside front - John Piccinotti; Inside front - Josh Junge; Outside rear - Rob Maxey; Inside rear - Tim White; Jackman - Pete Bloathner; Fueler - James Stevens; Front tire pass - Simon Morley; Rear tire pass - Scott Simpson; Stop Sign - John Cummiskey; Front hose pull - Darren Newport; Spotter - Cole Carter

ROOKIE RAFA

The 2009 IndyCar season marks the fifth time Raphael Matos has been a rookie in an American racing series. He has proven to be quite competitive in each of his debut seasons. Matos was Skip Barber Rookie of the Year after winning the Formula Dodge National Shootout in 2002. He was a Star Mazda series rookie in 2004, finishing seventh in the standings despite not starting until week two. He claimed one pole at Mosport and had a season- best second place finish at Road America that year. Matos made the jump to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Series in 2006 and finished fourth in the point standings for the Sierra Sierra team. He recorded one win (San Jose), three poles, four podium finishes and was second in laps led. With Andretti Green Racing in 2008, Matos secured the Firestone Indy Lights crown with three wins, eight top 5s and 13 top 10s. He led the league in poles (5), top 10 finishes (13), laps led (190) and races led (5).

-credit: ldr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Tomas Scheckter , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Cheever , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Rick Mears , Ryan Briscoe , Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Cole Carter , Hideki Mutoh , Danica Patrick , James Stevens
Teams Dragon Racing