Chicagoland: Series race notes

JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008 - Raphael Matos won the Firestone Indy Lights championship with a third-place finish in the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos led the 66 of 67 laps after starting from the pole. His teammate Arie...

JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008 - Raphael Matos won the Firestone Indy Lights championship with a third-place finish in the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos led the 66 of 67 laps after starting from the pole. His teammate Arie Luyendyk Jr. surged past him on a Lap 66 restart to earn his first career victory.

Richard Antinucci, who entered the race only three points behind Matos, finished 21st after contact with another car knocked him out of the race on Lap 26.

Ana Beatriz finished second, .0817 of a second behind Luyendyk, to finish third in the championship.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s first career victory in his 62nd career Firestone Indy Lights start. Luyendyk had eight career second-place finishes, including this season at Watkins Glen 2 and Infineon 1.

* Luyendyk has six top-five finishes this season.

* Raphael Matos wins the Firestone Firehawk Cup. It is the first championship for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing.

* Matos finishes the season with three victories, five poles and eight top-five finishes.

* Matos wins the championship by 32 points, the third-closest final point margin in Firestone Indy Lights history.

* Richard Antinucci finished 21st in the race and second in the championship. Antinucci finishes the season with two victories and nine top-five finishes.

* Ana Beatriz finished second, her sixth podium finish of the season.

* Bobby Wilson finished fourth, his third top-five finish of the season. He improved eight positions during the race.

* The final margin of victory of .0817 of a second ranks as the fifth-closest Firestone Indy Lights finish at Chicagoland Speedway in seven races. All seven races have finished with a margin of victory of less than .6100 of a second.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES:

ARIE LUYENDYK JR (No. 26 Targus/Automatic Fire Sprinklers, first): "It was perfect. This is a dream scenario - me winning the race and Rafa (Matos) winning the championship. It's more than words can describe. Green, white, checkered is always nerve-wracking. We got a good restart, thank God, and Rafa and I worked beautifully today. Ana (Beatriz) was definitely a tough competitor. She was the one I was worried about. My Firestone tires held up beautifully, it was amazing. The car was so consistent from Lap 1 to the end. I made a lot of adjustments in the car. AGR/AFS, Targus, my sponsor, everyone helped out. It was just a beautiful weekend."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): "It was really hard to pass the AFS guys, they were really, really fast. They were working together, which was really tough. I tried to stay behind them. When Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) made his move, I was able to stay with him and get that second position. It was very good, finishing on the podium in second place. I am very grateful to Healthy Choice and all of the people who have helped me throughout the season. I believe we're going to stay in the Firestone Indy Lights for one more year and fight for the championship from the beginning of the season. I am stronger and have more experience right now, and I'm hopeful that we can do well."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 15 National Guard Delphi, fourth): "I have to give it to the guys; they're a well-oiled machine at Panther Racing. Their attention to detail is impeccable, and they gave me a good car to run up front. I started 12th and kept working forward and working forward."

JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fifth): "We got as high as fourth on two occasions, and P5 is the car we had today. It was an unusual race up front with the single-file drafting, and if you ever tried to make it two-wide and stay there, you'd lose momentum on the outside and then you'd get passed."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, third & series champion): "It was the best third-place finish of my life. We had a plan today for me to win the championship and Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) to win the race. He really deserved to win a race this year, and it worked perfectly for us. I'm very happy for him, and I'm really happy for the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing team. They deserve this championship as much as I do." (Did they tell you that Antinucci had trouble): "Yes, they did. I told them not to drink the champagne before we finished the race."

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, championship runner-up): "I need to see the video but the No. 4 car did not hold a consistent line throughout the corner. We were actually banging wheels up the straight. I think he and his teammate were going through the world final championships on Lap 12. I was just trying to hold on to the philosphy of being cool and hanging back. If you look at where (Logan) Gomez is right now and we were working together, I don't know if the other car had dipped or something. I think I had moved up to sixth on that pass, that double pass. I was on the outside, I had the momentum and I had the tow to pass him. We banged wheels on the straight, which shocked me. I think he wiggled, washed out and washed up and clipped my rear tire."

(About the championship) "It's a bitter pill to swallow, losing it at the last round. But, 'ifs' and 'buts' don't take you anywhere. So there's no point. I believe we could have potentially been 120 points down the road, but that's not important today. We managed to finish second. I had a great year overall. I have to thank my Lucas Oil LifeLock Sam Schmidt Motorsports group tremendously because they helped me. We had a chance. We led most of the year, but not when it counted unfortunately."

ARIE LUYENDYK (Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner & father of Arie Luyendyk Jr.): "It's been a long time coming. He's had a lot of opportunities and chances before where he's missed out on them. There have been 'ifs' and 'buts' but finally he got the job done, so it's awesome. Last year there were a couple races he did, one-offs, and that was not the way to go. I knew that this year with a team like Andretti Green that he could show what he can do. It's been a great year. Obviously his knee has bothered him and cost him a lot of points, but it's still been a great year. I am happy for him more than I am happy for me. I am a big supporter of his and he doesn't have to do this for me because I'm not a 'pusher' dad. Especially this year with the good people he had around him all I did was watch the race from pit lane."

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a non-points paying race Oct. 26 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Nikon Indy 300 will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 25 by ESPN Classic and will re-air at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 on ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season has concluded.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS