RICHARD ANTINUCCI OPENS FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS CAMPAIGN WITH A SECOND PLACE IN HIS DEBUT WITH SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS The Italian-American driver quickly adapts to oval-style racing, executing some awesome overtaking manoeuvres and leading for ...
RICHARD ANTINUCCI OPENS FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS CAMPAIGN WITH A SECOND PLACE IN HIS DEBUT WITH SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS
The Italian-American driver quickly adapts to oval-style racing, executing some awesome overtaking manoeuvres and leading for most laps -- 49 -- at Homestead-Miami. Briton Dillon Battistini claims maiden win in IndyCar's feeder series.
A hard-fought race kicked-off the Firestone Indy Lights season today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Polesitter Raphael Matos briefly held the top spot, until Richard Antinucci made a charge on Lap 9, staying bravely on the outside of the Andretti Green/AFS car for over a lap. Antinucci had to relinquish back the lead to the Brazilian three laps later, when he was stuck in a fight with Sean Guthrie. The latter was trying to unlap himself after a spin and having lightly brushed the inside wall during the warm-up laps. It took a few laps to the San Diego-based Antinucci to dispose of Guthrie, which happened on Lap 20 when the #7 Lucas Oil Dallara set its best time so far, before successfully attacking Matos' lead -- and passing again the Brazilian on the outside line.
Guthrie -- who wound up posting the race fastest lap -- hunted again the red-white leading car, and this time around Antinucci opted to let the rival go, craftly using the draft to build a buffer on the chasing pack, which worked pretty well around the mid-race 50-mile mark, when Antinucci even enjoyed a 3-second cushion on the posse. The first caution -- Laps 50-52 -- due to debris at Turn 3 made disappear the gap and made the life easier for the closest rival: Dillon Battistini, an Englishman who had started from the outside pole. The Panther Racing rookie after having had the upper's hand on Matos tried hard at the restart to get past the #7 Lucas Oil Dallara but to no avail, as Antinucci went by smoothly.
But on Lap 56 the yellow flags were waved again as Aussie James Davison, one of Antinucci four team mates, went out at Turn 4. The green light was back on Lap 60 and again Antinucci kept the lead, but the Englishman immediately put under heavy pressure the San Diego driver and he was able to dive succesfully on the inside of the Sam Schmidt Motorsport car on Lap 64. Battistini went on to win his maiden Indy Lights race, whilst Antinucci -- who had started 5th from the grid -- posted a valuable runner-up finish 1.6848 seconds adrift of the winner. Battistini's team mate, Brent Sherman, wound up 3rd.
The Rome-born driver was 100% positive about the box score: "A great day, my engineer did an outstanding job guiding me through my first oval race, I wish to thank him a lot. We worked most of friday on the car set-up with full tank, and we were going in the right direction, I think. We may have won if the weather had helped us a little bit more, but yesterday was a bit cooler and this somehow hurt a little bit. In the end my tyres were feeling the strain of hthe heat and I would not have risk a valuable score for a nice stat in my resume, therefore I did not fight with Battistini. We have to take these points and look at the big picture. We're planning and we're designed to win. So we got to go out and show and try to be in the front all the time and get as many point as we can. We didn't expect and I don't think we planned to race 50 laps-plus without a caution just based on the previous history of the results on this track. So I think that hurt us a bit, too. But we scored pretty good points today and the Firestone Indy Lights season is long."