The Luczo Dragon Racing team makes its debut at Iowa Speedway after finishing 12th in Texas. Raphael Matos made his only Iowa appearance last year, finishing seventh in the Firestone Indy Lights race.
With a career-best sixth place finish and 28 points at the Milwaukee Mile, Raphael Matos moved atop the Bombardier Rookie of the Year Standings. Matos has a two-point lead over Robert Doornbos after they finished 12th and 11th respectively in Texas. Doornbos had led the first four weeks, but back-to- back strong performances in Indianapolis and Milwaukee allowed Matos to overcome an 11-point deficit. He ranks 13th overall.
One thing rookie Raphael Matos has shown this season, especially the last three races, is that he can run with the IndyCar Series leaders. With the exception of Kansas, Matos has been highly competitive, qualifying ninth or better three times and running top five in three of the six races. His 46 points in the last two races is tied with Dan Wheldon for seventh most. Only Ryan Briscoe (85), Scott Dixon (85), Helio Castroneves (69), Dario Franchitti (66), Danica Patrick (58) and Marco Andretti (58) have registered more points in the last two races.
CHASING TOP 10
Raphael Matos ranks 13th in the overall drivers standings with 106 points and is closing fast on the top 10. The young Brazilian is just one point behind Justin Wilson and Hideki Mutoh, who are tied for 11th and just 10 points back of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who ranks 10th with 116 points. Since Hunter-Reay and Wilson finished second and third respectively in St. Petersburg, Matos has outscored Hunter-Reay 94-76 and Wilson 94-70. Over the last two races Matos has averaged 23 points compared to 18 by Mutoh, 16 by Hunter-Reay and 15 by Wilson.
RAFA'S IOWA SCOUTING REPORT
"Iowa is a tough track. There's a lot of banking in turns 1 and 2 and not so much in turns 3 and 4, so you will get some side by side racing especially in 1 and 2. Usually the car is not as good in one of the ends so if you nailed the setup you will be hard to beat."
RAFA'S RICHMOND TEST REPORT
"The test was great. I believe that we have a strong car for that type of track. It was good for me to get more acclimated to short ovals and working with Eric Zeto, our new engineer. We were concentrating on trying to find mechanical grip, and a good balance for the race. We also tried some qualifying simulations. It's a very difficult track to pass on since you don't have long straightaways to draft, so a good starting position is very important."
Raphael Matos' sixth place finish in Milwaukee is the second highest finish in team history, behind the fifth place finish Ryan Briscoe registered for the team at the 2007
Indianapolis 500. It was the third top 10 in team history. Matos' previous best finish was eighth in Long Beach. He was running top five for much of the day last week at the Indy 500 before crashing with Vitor Meira on lap 173.
CHARITY DRIVE By partnering with champion athletes each year, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. In 2009, they have added Shaquille O'Neal to their team of champions. "We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," Steve Luczo said. "Shaq has demonstrated that leadership, competitiveness, winning and compassion can all be achieved at the same time. As one of the most recognized Champions in sports, and as a positive role model through his many community and social efforts, Shaq is the ideal individual to help Luczo Dragon Racing further its success. On top of that, his father is a military veteran, which is particularly relevant to our expanded mission of supporting wounded and fallen soldiers and their families."
With the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary partners in 2009, much of the team's charitable focus will turn to organizations that support wounded and fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Jay Penske and Luczo to raise money, increase exposure to the sport of auto racing and encourage a philanthropic spirit that inspires others to make an impact in their communities.