Matos scores crucial Chicagoland pole

Raphael Matos secured a vital pole position for tomorrow's Indy Lights season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Matos ran his two-lap average three tenths of a second quicker than fellow Brazilian Ana Beatriz, who starts next to him on the front...

Raphael Matos secured a vital pole position for tomorrow's Indy Lights season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Matos ran his two-lap average three tenths of a second quicker than fellow Brazilian Ana Beatriz, who starts next to him on the front row. While Matos clocked in at 190.250 mph, Beatriz only managed 189.316 mph.

Beatriz's teammate and Matos' rival for the championship, Richard Antinucci, starts ninth, and will have to battle through the field in order to wrest the title away. Matos now holds a four-point lead on Antinucci prior to the race. Each of the title contenders offered their thoughts on the race ahead of them.

"It's another point that we definitely needed," Matos said. "I feel great about my car. We've had some ups and downs this season, but we've found good momentum. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into tomorrow."

"I have to go forward, right?" Antinucci offered after his run. "We've seen from the first race at Homestead, that we are slower in qualifying but a little more solid in the race. Like Rafa said, hopefully it will be a clean fight. It should be really exciting."

Not to be overlooked is fellow front-row starter Beatriz, who recorded her first series win on the concrete oval at Nashville. "We were really focused this morning on race setup," 'Bia' said. "I was really wishing I could stay in the top three, so the second position is pretty good. Matos went really, really fast. I donUt know what he did, but I'm very confident for the race tomorrow."

Matos and Antinucci represent the two major players but there are others of note from the 24-car field. Completing the top five on the grid are Arie Luyendyk Jr., Mike Potekhen and Daniel Herrington. Luyendyk ran the fastest ever Indy Lights lap turned at the circuit in practice, a 194.332 mph, but the record is unofficial.

"The first priority this weekend is helping Rafa win the championship," Luyendyk said. "If we could win our first race, that would be just a dream. We pretty much need to win to have a shot at finishing third in the championship ourselves."

Down the grid, the field is in flux, with a bevy of driver changes entering the final race. Dillon Battistini (Team Moore), Bobby Wilson (Panther), Wade Cunningham (Integra), and Pablo Donoso (Mo's Gold) are all in new rides. Also, Brandon Wagner adds his name to the all-time roster of Indy Lights pilots this weekend, making his debut in a second Alliance Motorsports car.

Battistini was quickest of those changing seats, qualifying seventh alongside teammate Jonathan Klein. Wilson timed in 12th, with Cunningham a spot behind and Donoso in 16th. Wagner timed in 20th, just trailing J.R. Hildebrand, who is one of four drivers with a shot at third place in the championship.

A battle within the battle sees Hildebrand, Luyendyk, Battistini and Beatriz all in the running for best-of-the-rest behind Matos and Antinucci.

Continuing with the theme of team changes, it was also announced today that HVM Racing will extend their operations into Indy Lights with a two-car program managed by Michael Crawford, who has fielded his own team since the start of 2006.

Tomorrow's season finale event starts at 11:00 a.m. central time, moved up one half-hour to accommodate the television scheduling of the weather-delayed NASCAR race in Richmond.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Richard Antinucci , Pablo Donoso , Wade Cunningham , Daniel Herrington , Bobby Wilson , Jonathan Klein , Brandon Wagner , Mike Potekhen , Ana Beatriz , Dillon Battistini
Teams HVM Racing