IPS: Matos wins in St. Pete debut

Raphael Matos won the first of two Indy Pro Series events on the streets of St. Petersburg Fla. this weekend. Matos, who won the Star Mazda Series championship last year, started on the pole but was immediately challenged in the first turn by...

Raphael Matos won the first of two Indy Pro Series events on the streets of St. Petersburg Fla. this weekend. Matos, who won the Star Mazda Series championship last year, started on the pole but was immediately challenged in the first turn by fourth place starter Jay Howard. Howard attempted to dive into the lead in the first corner but could not pull ahead of Matos to secure the position. The pair raced side by side into the second turn where Howard was forced to slot into second.

Jeff Simmons maintained his starting position at the end of the first lap, crossing the stripe I n third place, just ahead of second place starter Alex Lloyd.

Matos pulled out a huge lead while Howard gradually slipped back to face a challenge from Simmons. At the mid point of the race, Simmons was right behind Howard looking for an opportunity to move into second.

Simmons didn't get a chance to make his bid for second before Marty Roth went off course causing the first caution period of the race.

The field lined up for the restart with Matos at the point followed by Howard, Simmons and Jonathan Klein.

Howard used the restart to dive to the inside of Matos one more time but both drivers overshot the corner with Howard taking the advantage.

Three laps later, Matos moved back into the lead, passing Howard in Turn four. When Geoff Dodge and Bobby Wilson tangled on the next lap, bringing the second caution, Matos knew he'd have to protect the inside line on the restart.

Jeff Simmons lined up behind Matos for the restart, which takes place on a long straightway followed by a tight right-left complex. Matos stayed close to the inside line on the run to turn one, but overshot the corner. Simmons went into the corner carrying a lot of speed too, but wasn't able to move into the lead until Matos slipped wide between turns one and two.

With less than two laps to go Matos regained the lead in turn 14, when Simmons made a small mistake. "I just made a mistake," Simmons admitted. "As soon as you miss just a little bit down there in that last corner, you get out in some marbles and you're dirt tracking for the rest of the corner."

Crossing the finish line more than half-a-second ahead of Simmons, Matos became the fifth driver to win an Indy Pro Series race in his series debut. "We had a little bit different setup than the other guys," said Matos. "I knew my car was faster in the infield, so I just needed to be patient, take my time and finally make the pass." The victory marked the first win for Guthrie Racing. The team made its debut last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We really had a good car," said Matos. "Every single session the car was perfect."

Simmons' second place finish marked his tenth consecutive top-10 finish in the series.

Jay Howard finished third for the second consecutive race.

Nick Bussell finished fourth followed by Jonathan Klein and Chris Festa in sixth. The starting grid for the Sunday's Indy Pro Series race will be set by the finishing order of today's race with the first six finishers inverted. Chris Festa will start on the pole.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Marty Roth , Jeff Simmons , Alex Lloyd , Nick Bussell , Chris Festa , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Jonathan Klein , Geoff Dodge