MATOS TOPS FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS OPEN TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 11, 2008 - Raphael Matos continues to be a quick study on ovals

The Brazilian rookie topped the time chart April 11 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as 23 drivers participated in a Firestone Indy Lights Open Test in preparation for next month's Firestone Freedom 100.

Matos lapped the historic 2.5-mile oval in 47.6587 seconds, 188.843 mph in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. car.

"This is a great place with a lot of history, so I'm very happy that I was able to drive here," Matos said. "We were very strong today. Like Homestead, we were very quick in qualifying runs and we made progress on the long runs. I'm looking forward to coming back here for the race."

Matos was followed by RLR/Andersen Racing teammates J.R. Hildebrand and Andrew Prendeville, Sam Schmidt Motorsports' rookie James Davison and American Spirit Racing's Cyndie Allemann.

Drivers combined to complete 1,870 laps during a day that began after two-hour rain delay.

South African rookie Tschops Sipuka brought out the lone caution when he spun shortly before 3 p.m. Sipuka did not make contact with the SAFER Barrier and was able to continue the test.

The sixth Firestone Freedom 100 is scheduled for May 23, two days before the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

OPEN TEST QUOTES:

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing, second-fastest): "Just walking into this place, the history hits you like a ton of bricks. It's like no other track. It's not like anything else I've ever experienced. With my road course background, it felt like a big road course with four corners. A driver really has to drive around this place. It requires skill; it's not just a setup. In the morning, we had some little issues we had to work out. Andrew did his fast time in the morning, as did Raphael (Matos). We were able to put in quite a few laps in the afternoon, and that's when I set my fastest lap. I had a few moments due to gusts of wind. It was a good test. It's hard to equate to race weekend, but Andrew and I worked well together. I only had one real oval under my belt before today, so I had some mixed feelings, but I came in with an open mind. I'm pleased with how it went and how good the car was."

ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 5 RLR/Andersen Racing, third-fastest): "The test went well. I set my fastest time right out of the box. There were a couple of sprinkles, and the wind is always a factor here. I had a couple of moments because of it, but that's part of Indy. The team did a great job, and now I'm off to Cincinnati for a Racing Laps for Best Friends appearance at the Everything Pets Show this weekend."

JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fourth-fastest): "It was a really, really incredible experience driving on the oval at Indianapolis. I've raced one on the road course here. For my first time, it was really good. The team and I worked really well and were able to have a really good car and be competitive around the top three, where we believe we deserve to be. We've had a difficult start to the season in terms of results of the races, but we've been fast, so it's important to get this on paper and rebuild some momentum that was lost."

CYNDIE ALLEMANN (No. 18 American Spirit Racing, fifth-fastest): "We did a lot of work today. We tried many things for the setup for the race, and they all were very good. We did a great job together." (About driving at Indianapolis): "I was impressed to know that I was coming to drive at Indianapolis. In Europe, you hear a lot about the (Indianapolis) 500. That's the most famous race. It's such a good feeling to run around this racetrack."

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OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK:

American Spirit backs Naval Squadron: During the 2008 season, the American Spirit Racing car driven by Cyndie Allemann will carry a decal of the Navy's VP-47 Squadron.

The squadron, known as the Golden Swordsmen, flies P3-Orions and is based in Hawaii. In exchange for the logos, the squadron recently received an autographed poster of Allemann.

"American Spirit Racing is proud to support our service men and women around the world in their duty to their country," said American Spirit Racing team owner Jon Lewis. "I recently received a few photos from the VP-47 squadron in Iraq holding Cyndie's poster. They were extremely excited that they will be on our car and felt that it couldn't be with a better team than one called American Spirit."

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Going the wrong way?: James Davison is new to the famed oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he is not a stranger to the facility.

Davison, who drives the No. 11 Lifelock car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, raced on the IMS road course in a Formula BMW USA race during the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

"It's different, for sure," Davison said. "It was a really, really incredible experience driving on the oval at Indianapolis."

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Trading places: Firestone Indy Lights veteran Travis Gregg tested for a pair of teams at Indianapolis. Gregg began the day driving the #34 car usually driven by Jon Brownson and then switched to the Team Moore Racing entry. Gregg hopes to compete in the Firestone Freedom 100 in a second Team Moore Racing entry.

"I got a call from Tim Neff at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, who asked me to get in one of the cars and evaluate what they have," Gregg said. "I took advantage to get the track time. For the race on Carb Day, I plan on racing with Team Moore Racing, so the plan is to jump in that car when Jeff (Simmons) is done. From one car to another is pretty busy day for me."

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Tschops tests at Indy: South African driver Tschops Sipuka got his first taste of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway sharing the No. 3 Brian Stewart Racing car with Juan Manuel Polar.

Sipuka spun off of Turn 2 at approximately 2:49 p.m. but did not make contact with the wall.

"The place on its own is quite mind-boggling, but the friendly atmosphere is quite astonishing," Sipuka said. "It really makes you feel at home. It's my first time out in the car at Indy, so I think the speed will come. I think we're a second off the pace, but it's an area we can work on."

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The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 27 with the Kansas Lottery 100 at Kansas Speedway. ESPN2 will be telecast the race in HD at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 1. The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a unique weekend - two races on two continents - the Indy Japan 300 on April 19 at Twin Ring Motegi and the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 20 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. Points will be awarded for both races with IndyCar Series drivers participating in Japan and Champ Car World Series competitors in Long Beach. The Motegi race will be telecast in High Definition at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2 on April 18 and re-aired at 3 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, April 18 at 11:30 p.m. (EDT). 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 Long Beach race will air on April 20 at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2.

-credit: irl