Dillon Battistini made an impressive debut in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, winning the Miami 100 at Homestead Miami Speedway. After qualifying on the front row on Friday, Battistini noted that he had only been with Panther Racing for about a...
Dillon Battistini made an impressive debut in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, winning the Miami 100 at Homestead Miami Speedway. After qualifying on the front row on Friday, Battistini noted that he had only been with Panther Racing for about a week. His Indy Lights experience has consisted of three days; a rookie test, a day of practice and qualifying on Friday, and Saturday's race.
"The first time I ever drove on an oval was last week," said Battistini.
Asked if the race was easy, Battistini replied, "It's never easy, but it's a lot easier when your car's good. The car's been fantastic."
Raphael Matos started from the pole and led the first 18 laps before encountering handling problems. Matos traded places with Richard Antinucci for the lead at one point and despite the handling problems, managed to stay in the top three for most of the race. Running third with two laps to go, Matos slipped to eighth place at the finish.
Antinucci finished second after leading 45 of the 67 laps. Battistini, who took over the lead with four laps to go, said his car was setup to come together at the end of the race. "The only problem I had was the restarts after a yellow when the car lost tire pressure. The tires cooled off and I was struggling to get back up to speed for a couple laps. I knew once the car heated up, I would be quick."
Antinucci was surprised that the race ran relatively caution free. "I think I burned my tires a little too early," he said. "It went longer than expected without a caution."
The race was under caution twice, the first for debris on Lap 50 and the second for a Lap 56 incident when James Davison spun in Turn four and brushed the outside wall with his rear wing.
Battistini's Panther Racing teammate Brent Sherman finished third after starting 13th. Sherman said his car was good throughout the race. "It stuck as good on the last lap as it did on the first."
Arie Luyendyk finished fourth, earning his 19th career top-five finish in Indy Lights. Luyendyk started 11th and clawed his way to the front early. He was third by Lap 12. Shuffled back to eighth, Luyendyk used the second restart to pick up the momentum needed to vault into fourth.
Chris Festa picked up 10 positions during the race to finish fifth. He said gearbox problems hampered his restarts, "but once we got it rolling our car was very good and stayed very consistent. If the gearbox was up shifting properly we could have challenged for the win."
Twenty-three cars were running at the finish, a series record with 18 running on the lead lap.