RICHARD ANTINUCCI TAKES THE LEAD IN THE FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS STANDINGS BY 6 POINTS OVER ST. PETERSBURG 100 WINNER RAPHAEL MATOS Starting from the front row the Sam Schmidt Motorsport driver posts second successive runnerup finish after series...
RICHARD ANTINUCCI TAKES THE LEAD IN THE FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS STANDINGS BY 6 POINTS OVER ST. PETERSBURG 100 WINNER RAPHAEL MATOS
Starting from the front row the Sam Schmidt Motorsport driver posts second successive runnerup finish after series opener
Richard Antinucci has climbed on top of the Firestone Indy Lights points standings, stacking up the points picked at Homestead-Miami on 29th March and 40 more after taking second place in the St. Pete 100 today. The previous leader, Briton Dillon Battistini, was sidelined just past the half-race mark by mechanichal trouble while lying 11th.
Antinucci had a relatively uneventful afternoon at the 1.8-mile street course, where he confirmed his starting position. Pole sitter Raphael Matos of Brazil was able to score a lights-to-lights win without ever having to relinquish the top spot. In the early stages the Brazilian of the AFS/Andretti Green stable was never far away from the #7 Lucas Oil Dallara, but a couple of full course yellow had been brought out by lap 7 bunching up the field. At the second restart Sam Schmidt Motorsport female driver Ana Beatriz Figuereido was able to grab second place, and while the two were battling for the runnerup spot Matos opened up a small margin. When Antinucci overtook Ana Beatriz on Lap 17 Matos was a second clear of the posse, but by lap 30 he was then enjoying a cushion of 3-plus second. The Italian-American driver following effort therefore was focusing more on the box score which was granting him his first ever series lead than on edging the red-yellow leading car.
After the race Antinucci paid tribute to the effort of his Brazilian rival: "Matos has been on top during the free practice, in qualifying and in the race as well, one has to give him and his team credit for that. It looks like today the Brazilians were in superb shape here in St. Pete, if you gave them any room they were gone. Ana Beatriz did just that on me when I made a stupid mistake on Lap 7, I got stuck in third gear and went wide at the exit of the hairpin just before the restart. She did a good job passing me. I even tried to make it hard for her, but she was just very good. After that, I had to wait to pass her back. We had that (local) yellow flag that kind of slowed things up. Once we got around that, I knew I could pass her if everything was right. Once I got through I pulled clear. But s far as Raphael is concerned I could just try to keep the gap as small as possible. I think he had a couple of tenths on me; he's had them all weekend. Tomorrow race will be tricky, with the reverse grid you can expect anything."