COMING TO KENTUCKY It may be the first visit to Kentucky Speedway for Luczo Dragon Racing, but Raphael Matos will be making his second appearance on the track. Matos captured the pole and finished sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights race in Sparta...
COMING TO KENTUCKY
It may be the first visit to Kentucky Speedway for Luczo Dragon Racing, but Raphael Matos will be making his second appearance on the track. Matos captured the pole and finished sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights race in Sparta last year. Luczo Dragon hopes to improve its fortunes on the oval track, the seventh of the season. In six previous ovals, LDR has performed well on the short ovals, finishing sixth in Milwaukee and eighth in Richmond, but has struggled on the bigger ovals. Matos scored 18 points with a 12th place finish in Texas, a track he compares to Kentucky.
It will show up as 18th in the official standings, but the Marines Luczo Dragon team had a much better car than the back of the pack finish it received in Edmonton. The fact that it turned out one of the three fastest racecars on the track Sunday makes the hard luck hit it took from behind at the start of the race that much more unfortunate. After starting eighth Raphael Matos found himself dead last before completing the first turn when Mike Conway clipped the right rear end of the #2 car and sent it spinning and in need of a new right rear suspension. It was one of the few incidents in a race that saw only one full course yellow on the final lap of the race. After returning to the race 10 laps down, Matos unveiled a performance that was leaderboard worthy. Matos recorded the fourth fastest lap time of the race and third fastest on black tires. His 62.71 trailed only Conway's 62.43, Will Power's 62.66 and Helio Castroneves' 62.70. Conway's lap came on red tires. Matos also made more passes than any driver in the race.
RAFA'S LEARNING EXPERIENCE
"The Edmonton incident was really a shame because once the team fixed the suspension the car was great. We were definitely one of the fastest cars on the track, but there's nothing you can do about it. As disappointing as it is, the important thing for me is that I learned a lot there. I passed a lot of cars, my engineers say I made the most passes in the race and it's important for me as a rookie to gain that kind of experience. As a team we just need to keep our heads up because we did a lot of great things in Edmonton, which will make us even stronger there next year."
Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are in the midst of a seesaw race for Rookie of the Year honors, a race that has changed hands four times now, including twice in the last three races. The contact-induced spin and suspension issue at the start in Edmonton not only spoiled a potential top five finish and point windfall for Matos, it also dropped the confident rookie three points behind Doornbos in the standings. Matos had taken over the lead for the second time with a 10th place finish in Toronto, but now finds himself trailing 197-194. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. They have flip flopped the lead each of the last three races. Matos' biggest lead has been seven points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11. They have twice been separated by just one point.
RAFA'S KENTUCKY SCOUTING REPORT
"Kentucky is a completely different approach than the last couple races. I feel we have made some progress on super speedways and hopefully we'll be able to carry that over. It's a traditional 1½ speedway, quite similar to Texas with a little less banking and little slower. It's also a little bumpier than Texas."
RAFA ON TRANSITIONING FROM STREET TO OVAL
"The team has made some good progress with the car on super speedways. It will just take time and effort to develop the car. It's no secret, all of the other teams are a little bit ahead of us because they've had more time with their cars, but we're catching up because we have a good team."
RAFA'S OVAL FILM STUDY
"I try to watch a lot of on board videos on YouTube to pick up on mistakes and drivers lines and little things that can help me in the race. I raced there last year in Indy Lights so I feel comfortable there. I will just take the same approach I have with the other ovals."
AIR FORCE CAR #Luczo Dragon Racing will put the Blue and Silver Air Force car back on the track in Kentucky. They have run the Marines car in the last five races and will have it again in Mid-Ohio and Sonoma. LDR will bring the Air Force car to the final three races in Chicago, Japan and Miami.
AT HOME ON THE ROAD
All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road and street courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road and street courses 15 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and 10 top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 16 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. He qualified ninth in Toronto and eighth in Edmonton. If you add in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series, Matos had qualified top 10 in 22 consecutive road course races. He also added six wins, 11 top fives and finished top 10 in all 12 Atlantic races.