Kansas: Luczo Dragon Racing preview

ABBRIEVIATED HISTORY Both Luczo Dragon Racing and Raphael Matos have made one appearance at Kansas Speedway and neither went according to plan. In its first race of the 2008 season and only its second ever, LDR qualified fourth in Kansas with...

ABBRIEVIATED HISTORY
Both Luczo Dragon Racing and Raphael Matos have made one appearance at Kansas Speedway and neither went according to plan. In its first race of the 2008 season and only its second ever, LDR qualified fourth in Kansas with Tomas Scheckter behind the wheel. They climbed as high as second before a Marty Roth miscue in the pits set them back. Scheckter climbed back into the top 10 but contact with E.J. Viso on lap 97 ended the day early. Matos made his lone appearance in Kansas in Indy Lights in 2008. After qualifying second, Matos had his lowest finish of the season when a collision landed him in the 19th spot.

RAFA'S KANSAS SCOUTING REPORT
"Kansas is a 1.5 mile oval and will be flat out, very close racing. In Indy Lights we ran three wide there at times. We'll get a lot of side-by-side racing. I'm very excited. We tested the car in Texas and we were extremely quick. The tracks are similar, the speed is similar and aerodynamics are similar so the feeling we had for the car should help us with our set up."

RAFA'S OVAL DEBUT
"I have a lot to learn and really need to listen to the engineers. They have much more experience on ovals than me. I have more experience on the street courses so I can provide more input, but on the ovals I really need to listen closely to them in order to improve the car. Everything is going to be new, getting up to speed after pit stops, how much to push coming in and out of the pits, especially when the tires are cold. I have experience in Indy Lights, but everything is going to be a learning experience."

LONG BEACH RECAP
Matos started third and finished eighth at the Long Beach Grand Prix. He moved into second place on the first lap and took the lead on the 17th lap before pitting on 19. He gave Luczo Dragon Racing its first top 10 finish since finishing fifth at the 2007 Indianapolis 500. Matos recorded 24 points for the effort and climbed five spots to 15th in the standings.

BEACH BESTS
The Luczo Dragon Racing Team enjoyed some memorable moments during their weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix. On Saturday they locked down their best ever qualifying position when Matos clocked a 1:10.2043 at 100.917 mph on his final lap to grab third behind Will Power and Dario Franchitti. It was one spot better than the previous team high of fourth by Tomas Scheckter in Kansas last year. The milestones continued on race day. They finished P1 in the final practice session of the weekend, their first ever top practice finish. Matos recorded a time of 1:10.9733 (99.823 mph) on his 18th lap to grab the top spot. During the race, Matos recorded the first laps led (2) in team history when he passed Will Power after lap 16. He relinquished the lead when he pitted on lap 19.

RAFA ON LONG BEACH
"Overall it was a good week for us. We made a lot of improvements as a team. We were disappointed in where we finished because we had a much better car than an eighth place car. But we were encouraged by what we accomplished as a team. We will now turn our attention to Kansas, my first oval race."

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

LUCZO DRAGON CAR SCHEDULE
MARINES: St. Petersburg, Milwaukee, Texas, Iowa, Richmond, Watkins Glen, Toronto, Edmonton, Ohio, Infineon
AIR FORCE: Long Beach, Kansas, Indianapolis 500, Kentucky, Chicago, Motegi, Japan, Miami

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).

CHARITY DRIVE
By partnering with a dozen champion athletes each of the last two years, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. 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 fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Steve Luczo and Jay Penske 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.

CHAMPIONS CHARITIES
The beneficiaries of the Luczo Dragon profit donation program have been: Always Dream Foundation (Kristi Yamaguchi), All Stars Helping Kids (Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott), Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (Brandi Chastain), Chase the Stars Foundation (Kerri Walsh), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Indiana Chapter (Rick Mears), Donovan McNabb Foundation (Donovan McNabb), Fisher House, Colorado Chapter (John Elway), Four Rings Montana Family Foundation (Joe Montana), Jackson Community College Foundation Wilbur Dungy Endowment (Tony Dungy), Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation (Joe Torre), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Sugar Ray Leonard), Northern California Special Olympics/Camp Okizu (Chris Mullin), Serena Williams Foundation (Serena Williams), Sports4Kids (Natalie Coughlin), Steve Nash Foundation (Steve Nash), Success Through the Arts Foundation (Jackson Browne), Team Play (Baron Davis), The B'Leaf Team ALS Patient Care (Joe Thornton), Turtle Ridge Foundation (Bode Miller), UNESCO (Venus Williams), Wayne Gretzky Foundation (Wayne Gretzky), Women's Sports Foundation (Laila Ali).

STAR POWER
To say Luczo Dragon's charity team of champions has been successful is an understatement. Combined, the 2007 and 2008 Luczo Dragon Racing team of champions have won 13 Super Bowls, 17 Olympic Gold Medals, 37 Grand Slam victories, 12 World Championships, 11 World Cups, 14 Wimbledon titles, five World Series titles, four Stanley Cups, four Indy 500 championships, eight US Open crowns, 17 League MVPs, five Super Bowl MVPs, one Heisman Trophy, 12 Hall of Fame inductions and more than 100 All-Star team selections.

-credit: ldr

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Series INDYCAR