OVAL SCHEDULE BEGINS When Raphael Matos and the Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports Team open the 2010 IZOD IndyCar oval schedule at Kansas Speedway this weekend they hope to start the same way they finished on ovals last year - running with ...
OVAL SCHEDULE BEGINS
When Raphael Matos and the Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports Team open the 2010 IZOD IndyCar oval schedule at Kansas Speedway this weekend they hope to start the same way they finished on ovals last year - running with the leaders. Matos recorded three top 10 finishes in the final five oval races last year compared to just one top 10 in the first five to start the season. As a rookie, Matos failed to complete the race in three of the first five ovals, including Kansas, but ran in the top 10 in four of the final five oval races after the IRL instituted aerodynamic changes prior to the race in Kentucky. Matos averaged 19.6 points per race in the final five oval events (Richmond, Kentucky, Chicagoland, Motegi and Homestead) and the strong finish allowed him to win the IndyCar Rookie of the Year title.
"Although the championship has many oval races they all have a different character and require a different set up," team president and managing partner Gil de Ferran said. "From a team stand point, it is good that we are going to an oval race prior to Indy. It gets the driver and the crew into a slightly different mode."
After struggling as a rookie in Kansas, Matos is looking for a little redemption in his return to the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300. The 28-year old Brazilian started 17th and finished 20th after making contact with the wall on lap 95 in 2009. "I didn't have a perfect car and the conditions with the wind were extremely difficult, but it's my job not to make a mistake and hit the wall. I have learned a lot about driving in difficult conditions, being patient and bringing the car home."
The Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports team was in Kansas to test last week and even though the session was washed away prematurely due to rain, Matos managed to come away feeling positive despite turning only 21 laps. "The car felt good right away. I know that race conditions change, but we will come to practice Friday knowing that we have a well balanced car."
GIL ON ABBREVIATED KANSAS TEST
"Unfortunately we didn't get much done apart from getting Rafa re- acclimated to driving this sort of race track again, as he has not driven on a oval since October at Homestead. It was unfortunate that we couldn't run much as we had a significant list of tests in preparation for the weekend. Frankly, there is no substitute for miles on these racetracks, experiencing and dealing with different situations that these tracks present. That's how you improve on ovals. One can talk about it until you are blue in the face, but you have to live it and learn how to deal with it."
RAFA ON KANSAS
"Kansas has moderate banking which makes it a little more difficult. You can run side by side, but the high line becomes much more difficult as the race goes on because of the marbles. This will be a challenging weekend because we will have a lot of cars on the track and a lot of rookies so we'll have to be able to manage through the traffic. I'm excited to get back onto the ovals because I really liked the changes the league made to the aerodynamic package last year. We became very competitive and proved to have a really good racecar."
Raphael Matos has finished 14 consecutive races the third longest streak in the series. Danica Patrick has completed 20 in a row and Dario Franchitti 18. The last time Matos did not finish a race was when he crashed in Iowa in 2009. He closed the 2009 season by finishing 10 races in a row and has completed the first four in 2010. Scott Dixon holds the all-time record at 28 straight.
LONG BEACH RECAP
For the first time during the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season, Raphael Matos was unable to make up any track positions during a race and finished 20th in the 36th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Starting 18th for the second consecutive race, the Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports team tried to shake things up by coming in early during the first pit window, but with only one caution flag the entire 85 laps the strategy was unsuccessful in moving Matos up. "It's really a shame that we struggled in qualifying because we had a very competitive car, especially in the end," Matos said. "The track really came to us and we were running with the leaders. When you start in the back here you have to take strategic risks because it's just so difficult to pass. Unfortunately our strategy didn't work, but that's how it goes." During the last 20 laps of the race, Matos kept pace with the leaders, turning in the fourth fastest lap of the day at 1:11.0052 on lap 79. Only the top three finishers had better lap times throughout.
AND DAVEY MAKES TWO
On Tuesday, May 4, Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports officially becomes a two-car team when both Matos and Davey Hamilton take to the track in Kentucky for testing. It will be the first two-car activity in team history and will allow Hamilton to get acclimated with the car in advance of the Indianapolis 500. He has not been on track in a racecar since the 2009 Indy 500. "I do believe that we will benefit from having two drivers and two sets of engineers exchanging information," de Ferran said. "Obviously, internally we will have to make a few adjustments as we have not ran two cars before, but I am confident that overall the addition of one car will be a plus."
RAFA ON DAVEY
"Davey is a very cool guy and a great team player. We are both competitive so we will be fighting it out on the track, but our goal is to really move the team forward and he will put us in a position to do that. He has so much experience to bring to the team and now I will have another driver I can compare myself too. It's really going to raise the bar for us. To have a guy who is experiencing the same things I am, but might be feeling things differently than I am, it's going to allow us to investigate more data and become more accurate in developing our equipment."
DAVEY ON KENTUCKY TEST
"I've been out of the car since Indy last year and haven't had a lot of laps in the last three years so this test will be important for me as we get prepared for Indy. It's also the first time working with the team and I'm looking forward to that. I may have experience, but Rafa has been in four races already and has knowledge of how the cars have been reacting this season so his input will be invaluable to me. We will push each other. The nice thing with a two-car team is that we can go out on two completely different setups and learn twice as much during the same session."
#2 HP LUCZO DRAGON PIT CREW ASSIGNMENTS
The Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports crew features eight returning members and five new faces on race days, including data engineers Scott Raymond, Carlos Gutierrez and Casey Eason and mechanics Chris Lovely and Shawn Ford. Everyone else returns, although there are two position changes. Josh Junge moves from outside rear tire changer to inside front, while Jason Hurless makes the move to outside rear after handling front tire pass duties a year ago.