Indy 500: Luczo Dragon Racing final qualifying preview

2009 INDY 500 QUALIFYING Raphael Matos narrowly missed qualifying on the first day, but bounced back on day two by registering the fastest time of the day and pulling down the 12th spot with a qualifying run of 223.429. Matos will give Luczo ...


Raphael Matos narrowly missed qualifying on the first day, but bounced back on day two by registering the fastest time of the day and pulling down the 12th spot with a qualifying run of 223.429. Matos will give Luczo Dragon Racing its second consecutive fourth row start at the Indianapolis 500. Tomas Scheckter qualified 11th with a near identical 223.496 four-lap average in 2008.


Time will tell who wins the award for the most consistent qualifier at the 2009 Indianapolis 500, but Raphael Matos will be a prime candidate after a remarkable performance in his first Indy 500 appearance. The 27-year old rookie posted the second most consistent qualifying run in week one with just a 0.232 difference between his fastest and slowest lap. Matos had a top speed of 223.561on his first lap and slowest mark of 223.329 on his fourth. He recorded a 223.407 on his second and 223.417 on his third. Scott Sharp's qualifying effort was the most consistent in the field with a 0.134 difference between fastest and slowest laps.


Raphael Matos became the 35th recipient of the Fastest Rookie Award when he posted a qualifying run of 223.429 Sunday, May 10. The 4-Lap average was the seventh fastest qualifying time overall and secured the 12th starting position for the #2 Air Force Luczo Dragon car. Matos joins a who's who of rookies who have won the award, including Rick Mears, Eddie Cheever Jr., Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti. Hideki Mutoh won the award in 2008. Matos will be honored at the Fastest Rookie Luncheon May 19 at the Brickyard Crossing.


With rookie Raphael Matos piloting the #2 car, the Luczo Dragon Racing team came into the Indianapolis 500 with a deliberate game plan in mind. They were focused on getting him acclimated with the track while building his confidence in the car. As his comfort level grew so did the adjustments and speed in the car. In the first week of practice, Matos registered 334 practice laps, the most in the field, and also increased his speed from one practice to the next at four of the five sessions. His fastest lap climbed from 218.613 on day one to 223.615 on day five. He ran the most laps on each of the first two days (80 and 132) and was second behind Sarah Fisher (75) with 73 laps turned on day three.


It was 20 years ago when Emerson Fitipaldi won the Indianapolis 500. It's also been 20 years since Raphael Matos started watching "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" as a seven year old with his father in Brazil. Tough for a youngster to remember everything he saw, but each year he watched Matos grew more determined to enter the race one day. So, 20 years after watching his first Indy 500, Matos will join the starting field as the 12th qualifier, fulfilling a dream that started when sitting in front of the television next to his dad in 1989. His father, Sergio Eustaquio Filho, will make the trip from Brazil to see his son race in Indianapolis.


The 2009 IndyCar season marks the fifth time Raphael Matos has been a rookie in an American racing series. He has proven to be quite competitive in each of his debut seasons. Matos was Skip Barber Rookie of the Year after winning the Formula Dodge National Shootout in 2002. He was a Star Mazda series rookie in 2004, finishing seventh in the standings despite not starting until week two. He claimed one pole at Mosport and had a season- best second place finish at Road America that year. Matos made the jump to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Series in 2006 and finished fourth in the point standings for the Sierra Sierra team. He recorded one win (San Jose), three poles, four podium finishes and was second in laps led. With Andretti Green Racing in 2008, Matos secured the Firestone Indy Lights crown with three wins, eight top 5s and 13 top 10s. He led the league in poles (5), top 10 finishes (13), laps led (190) and races led (5).


"It was very important to me. I took the most laps of anyone and that was part of the plan. It was important for me to concentrate on track time and get a feel for the car. Once I got comfortable in the car we started to trim it out. The team did a great job and we ended up finding a sweet spot for qualifying. We were seventh quickest which was great."


"This week we want to simulate the race conditions so we will focus on working with a loaded car in traffic. I will need to get comfortable in the car again, but it should be a bit easier because the car will have more grip."


"They have helped a lot. You really need to go out there and experience the situations to really see what they're talking about. They give advice and then when you experience it you can relate to what they said. The biggest thing is you have to respect this place; it's not forgiving at all. Rick and Gil emphasized that, especially in race conditions, in traffic."


"As a rookie, I'm learning something every day here. I have learned just how intense it is and the patience you have to have. You really need to take your time pushing your equipment because you can end up in the wall very quickly like a lot of other guys have done."


Race strategist - Jay Penske; Engineer - Ray Leto; Engineer/Fuel data - Brian Page; Data engineer/Fuel deadman - Daniel Louks; Chief Mechanic/outside front - John Piccinotti; Inside front - Josh Junge; Outside rear - Rob Maxey; Inside rear - Tim White; Jackman - Pete Bloathner; Fueler - James Stevens; Front tire pass - Simon Morley; Rear tire pass - Scott Simpson; Stop Sign - John Cummiskey; Front hose pull - Darren Newport; Spotter - Cole Carter

-credit: ldr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Tomas Scheckter , Jacques Villeneuve , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Rick Mears , Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Cole Carter , Hideki Mutoh , Danica Patrick , James Stevens
Teams Dragon Racing