Series news and notes 2009-05-19

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Matos has first taste of milk at Fastest Rookie luncheon * Shaq joins Luczo Dragon as charity partner * Sarah Fisher Racing adds Angie's List as sponsor 1. Matos has first taste of...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Matos has first taste of milk at Fastest Rookie luncheon
* Shaq joins Luczo Dragon as charity partner
* Sarah Fisher Racing adds Angie's List as sponsor

1. Matos has first taste of milk at Fastest Rookie luncheon: Twenty years ago, Raphael Matos sat on the floor of his home, watching on TV as the red and white No. 20 car of fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi passed under the checkered flag to win the 1989 Indianapolis 500.

"Some day that will be me," the 7-year-old unabashedly told his father.

On May 24, Sergio Eustaquio Filho will be on pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch his son compete in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Matos, who posted a four-lap average of 223.429 mph in the No. 2 Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing car to qualify 12th, earned the Fastest Rookie Award presented by the American Dairy Association of Indiana.

Six first-year drivers were in the running for the award, which has been presented since 1975, and five qualified for the race (Mike Conway, Robert Doornbos, Nelson Philippe and Alex Tagliani).

"It was a big accomplishment for the team and for myself," said Matos, the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion. "Being the fastest rookie means a lot to me, and being the quickest of the second day (of qualifying) means a lot to me as well. It gave me a lot of confidence, which allowed me to work on race setup. The car ran flawless all month, and we're proud to be here today. Hopefully, we'll keep that momentum and have a good race."

Matos, competing full time in the IndyCar Series, is a rookie for the fifth time in an American racing series (Skip Barber, Star Mazda, Atlantics, Firestone Indy Lights). At Indianapolis, he's received coaching from 2003 500-Mile Race champion Gil de Ferran and four-time champion Rick Mears (the 1978 fastest rookie).

"As a rookie, I'm learning something every day here," Matos said. "I have learned just how intense it is and the patience you have to have. I expect to have many battles throughout the race. It's going to be a day when to push and when to be conservative. Hopefully, I'll put myself in a good position in the last 30 minutes of the race to fight for hopefully a podium finish."

That, hopefully, would lead to the Chase Rookie of the Year Award.

"Before we started the year, it was one of our goals," Matos said of team co-owners Steve Luczo and Jay Penske.

Former Fastest Rookie Award recipients who have gone on to win the race in their careers include Scott Dixon, Eddie Cheever Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, Rick Mears and Jacques Villeneuve. Chip Ganassi and Michael Andretti, also former fastest rookies, have won the 500 Mile Race as team owners.

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2. Shaq joins Luczo Dragon as charity partner: Luczo Dragon Racing has partnered with NBA star Shaquille O'Neal to raise money and awareness for charity throughout the 2009 IndyCar Series season.

By partnering with champion athletes each year, Steve Luczo and Jay Penske, co-owners of Luczo Dragon Racing, have established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations worldwide in two years. With the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary partners on the car in 2009, much of the team's charitable focus will turn to organizations that support fallen heroes and their families.

"We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," 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."

The LDR community development program was designed to raise money, increase exposure of auto racing and encourage a philanthropic spirit that inspires others to make an impact in their communities.

As a four-time NBA champion, 15-time All Star, three-time NBA Finals MVP and 2000 NBA MVP, O'Neal has carved out a Hall of Fame career on the court. His work with children and families in need are just part of his mission to serve the community.

"I believe in giving, and I am thrilled to be joining forces with the Luczo Dragon Racing team," O'Neal said. "My parents taught me at a young age that my goals are and should be more than just about the things I want to personally accomplish. Therefore, giving to others has given me a deeper sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Everyone has a

passion. It could be any number of things: animals, education, AIDS research, cancer, etc. My passion is our most precious resource, children. That is why I support charity organizations that focus on children including Kids Athletic Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of America on a regular basis. There is no excuse for not giving. If you don't have money, you still can support by volunteering your time. Take it from me, we all win when we take the focus off of ourselves and support others."

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3. Sarah Fisher Racing adds Angie's List as sponsor: Indianapolis-based Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of ratings on local service providers, signed on to support hometown Sarah Fisher during the Indianapolis 500.

"I'm really excited about bringing Angie's List on board to Sarah Fisher Racing for the race this year," said Fisher, who will start 21st. "Finding the best home improvement contractors, doctors, etc., is always a chore unless you have some sort of recommendation from a friend. Angie's List can make that recommendation, and now what use to be a daunting task is easy."

Fisher, an Indianapolis resident, will make her eighth start in the event, driving the No. 67 Dollar General entry. In 2008, the Angie's List car, driven by Oriol Servia, finished 11th.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Gil de Ferran , Alex Tagliani , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Robert Doornbos , Emerson Fittipaldi , Skip Barber , Nelson Philippe , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway
Teams Dragon Racing