Richard Antinucci was the victor in the second round of the St. Petersburg Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader, crossing the finish line 1.5415 seconds ahead of J.R. Hildebrand. The event was billed as a race but the fans witnessed a street fight.
Richard Antinucci was the victor in the second round of the St. Petersburg Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader, crossing the finish line 1.5415 seconds ahead of J.R. Hildebrand. The event was billed as a race but the fans witnessed a street fight. Antinucci was crowned king of the hill after starting third.
Polesitter Jeff Simmons led the field to the first corner, but the mayhem behind him started early. Raphael Matos, Antinucci and Ana Beatriz, who started outside front row, went three wide through the first two corners, nudging each other as they settled into single file at Turn three. The field failed to finish the first lap under green when Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Juan Manuel Polar made contact in Turn four. Luyendyk collected Robbie Pecorari and the field was under yellow for several laps.
Matos lined up behind Simmons for the restart and while most were anticipating a pass for the lead, Beatriz slipped by to take second place. Less than two green laps were recorded before Chris Festa spun at the end of the main straight.
His lead erased once more, Simmons assumed his position behind the pace car followed by Beatriz, Matos, Hildebrand and Antinucci.
Matos swapped third place with Hildebrand before moving on to the runner up position a few laps later. Matos quickly sensed that his opportunities for the lead would be limited. Just past the midpoint of the race, Matos made his move at the entrance to Turn one and the two cars made contact. Matos sustained a flat tire and dropped to 16th. He would finish 12th. Simmons dropped to 15th and was credited with finishing 19th.
"I was on the inside," said Matos, "and he just turned into me. I don't think he had any business doing that."
Ana Beatriz led the field to the restart, holding the point for 2 green laps before being hit by her teammate Antinucci. Beatriz was hit by Pablo Donoso as she attempted to rejoin the field and was credited with 16th place.
Logan Gomez finished third, his best finish on a road/street circuit, after tying the record for greatest advance from start to finish. "the finish wasn't exactly what I expected," said Gomez, who started 23rd. "Going into the race we were going to be happy with a top ten finish. It turned out there were a lot more incidents in the race than we expected."
Homestead winner Dillon Battistini finished fourth, followed by Sean Guthrie and Al Unser II in sixth.
Indy Racing League officials determined that the contact between the two Sam Schmidt Motorsports' teammates was "avoidable contact" on the part of race winner Antinucci. The driver of the No. 7 has lost 10 points in the drivers' championship standing.