Raphael Matos led from flag to flag to win the St. Pete 100 Firestone Indy Lights race. For Matos, who earned the SWE Pole earlier in the day, it was his third career victory in six career starts. All three wins have come on the Streets of St. Petersburg where he has led 108 of 120 laps.
Richard Antinucci, the nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever, finished second for the second consecutive weekend. Ana Beatriz finished third, the highest finish by a woman in Firestone Indy Lights history.
*** FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:
* Raphael Matos wins his third career Firestone Indy Lights race in six starts. All three victories have come at St. Petersburg where he has led 108 of 120 laps.
* This is the second victory for AFS/Andretti Green Racing. The team won with Wade Cunningham at Watkins Glen last season.
* This is the 25th Firestone Indy Lights race where the winner has led from flag to flag.
* Richard Antinucci recorded his sixth top-five finish in 11 career starts. Antinucci has finished second in both races in 2008.
* Ana Beatriz recorded a career-best third-place finish in her second career start. It is the highest finish by a female driver in Firestone Indy Lights history. The previous best was Beatriz' seventh at Homestead-Miami earlier this season.
* The top four finishers will be inverted for the start of Sunday's race after Matos picked a chip with that number on it from a bag after the race. Jeff Simmons will start from the pole.
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES:
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., finished first): "I love St. Petersburg. The atmosphere is great and everything was just working great today with the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing car. I just can't thank all of those guys enough. Michael Andretti, Kim Green, Kevin Savoree and Gary Peterson have put a lot into the program. This is great for our sponsors, Automatic Fire Sprinklers and oso*fresh. This is a great feeling for them, too. This is our first victory of the year, and hopefully we can repeat tomorrow."
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil / Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished second): "It was a good but tough race. I made a mistake on one of the restarts at the beginning and my teammate Ana (Beatriz) got by me. She did a good job passing me. I 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 away from her and tried to catch Rafa (Matos). I think he had a couple of tenths on me; he's had them all weekend."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice / Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished third): "It was a great race. I didn't imagine that I would pass Richard (Antinucci). I just thought that Richard and Rafa (Matos) would just pull away and I wouldn't be able to catch them. I overtook Richard and it felt good to run in second for awhile. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race and trying to finish on the podium again. We'll have to make some changes on the car because we'll probably start further back in tomorrow's race and work on passing through the straights and trying to overtake people."
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, finished fourth): "We did OK. It's tough to pass on these street courses, and I don't want to take any chances of damaging the car. This team wants to keep racing after this weekend so we have to try to be careful. Once we cleared the fourth-place car, we were really chasing down the third-place car quick. We caught some traffic there - probably weren't going to catch up to her anyway. We just didn't quite have the speed. The car was good, but we just haven't had the time like the other teams to really nail down the perfect setup."
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing, finished fifth): "It was a tough one. I had a really good start and got up to fourth right at the beginning and was knocking on the door of third. But the car started going away a little bit and (Jeff) Simmons definitely had the pressure on. I had a little bit of trouble with the brake bias in the car. It was sort of different going into a bunch of corners. I locked up the rears going into the hairpin with a few laps to go and he snuck around me. We came away with a top five. It should put us in good position for tomorrow's race. We're looking to get in the top five in points and we'll take it from there."
SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8:05-8:15 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights warm-up
10:15 a.m. St. Pete 100 Race 2 pre-race
10:45 a.m. St. Pete 100 Race 2 (40 laps/72 miles)
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast in High Definition live at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. 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 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 5-6 with a doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on April 10 by ESPN2.