Mid-Ohio: Luczo Dragon Racing preview

RETURN TO MID OHIO Mid Ohio is a very familiar track for Raphael Matos. The Luczo Dragon rookie has raced there six times and has claimed three victories in three different series - once in Formula Dodge, once in Star Mazda and once in Indy ...


Mid Ohio is a very familiar track for Raphael Matos. The Luczo Dragon rookie has raced there six times and has claimed three victories in three different series - once in Formula Dodge, once in Star Mazda and once in Indy Lights. He will try to add an IndyCar win to his collection this week. Matos went wire to wire in the first of two Firestone Indy Lights races there last year. He captured the pole and led all 40 laps in securing his third win of the season. The second race was marred by rain and Matos, who started fourth, crashed late to finish 18th.


Immediately following the race in Toronto, the Luczo Dragon Racing team made the drive to Lexington, OH to join Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh and Marco Andretti in a testing session at Mid Ohio. With no previous experience on the track, LDR used the 57 laps they turned to generate a baseline set up for the car entering the race this week.


Weather may have played tricks on the schedule, but in the end Kentucky proved to be one of the most exciting races of the season. Slowed by only one caution flag, the race was the second fastest in series history, with an average speed of 200.893 mph and produced the 11th closest finish ever. Raphael Matos started 13th and finished 16th. He was hampered by two incidents - one on the opening lap when the car got loose and nearly sideways, costing him 10 positions, and the other on a penalty coming into the pits from turn 3 on lap 122, which dropped him from 14th to 16th. With just two points separating 13th and 16th in the overall IndyCar driver standings, the penalty ultimately cost Matos two points and three pit positions as he fell from 13th to 16th in the standings. He is two points back of Ryan Hunter-Reay for 13th and one point behind both Will Power and Robert Doornbos.


Count Raphael Matos as one driver who liked the push to pass and aerodynamic changes to the cars in Kentucky. "I really liked the changes, they reduced drag and created some side by side action and allowed us to pass people. The push to pass button helped me overtake some cars and I was able to use it to protect myself when other cars tried to attack. It was especially helpful early in the race when I got loose and fell to last. I used it to recover and it helped me get back into a rhythm."


"We weren't as strong as we would have liked to have been, but Kentucky was still a good experience for me and the team. I was able to get more experience running in the pack, running side by side and collecting data for the team and since we're new to this that data is very important for us."


For the third time this season, Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are separated by just one point in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors. Matos finished two spots ahead of Doornbos in Kentucky to narrow the points gap to 209-208. It is a battle that has changed hands four times now, including twice in the last four races. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. Matos' biggest lead has been seven points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11.


"Mid Ohio is a very technical and very challenging track. There are fast corners, slow corners, long steady corners and long straightaways. You have to understand and adjust throughout the race. Some of the corners have concrete patches, which can be very slippery, especially early on in the weekend. It's not easy to push the car there throughout the track because it is quite technical and physical. I have had a lot of success there and I'm excited to be back."


Race strategist - Jay Penske; Engineer - Eric Zeto; Engineer/Fuel data - Brian Page; Data engineer/Fuel deadman - Daniel Louks; Chief Mechanic/outside front - John Piccinotti; Inside front - Simon Morley; Outside rear - Josh Junge; Inside rear - Tim White; Jackman - Pete Bloathner; Fueler - Rick Campbell; Front tire pass - Jason Hurless; Rear tire pass - Scott Simpson; Stop Sign - John Cummiskey; Front hose pull - Darren Newport


As one might guess, Raphael Matos was happy to learn that the IndyCar series would open its 2010 schedule with a race in his native Brazil. "I am very excited and I think it's a big opportunity for the league to explore the Brazilian market. There is a big fan base in Brazil, they love racing. They know all about Formula One and IndyCar. You will see a lot of excitement. Brazilian people have a lot of energy and I think it's going to be a very special event."


While Raphael Matos recorded his fourth top 10 finish of the season with an 10th place finish in Toronto, it was the fifth top 10 in team history. The most ever top 10s by a rookie was 10 by Felipe Giaffone in 2001. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Hideki Mutoh had eight top 10s.


All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road and street courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road and street courses 15 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and 10 top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 16 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. He qualified ninth in Toronto and eighth in Edmonton. If you add in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series, Matos had qualified top 10 in 22 consecutive road course races. He also added six wins, 11 top fives and finished top 10 in all 12 Atlantic races.


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).


By partnering with champion athletes each year, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. In 2009, they have added Shaquille O'Neal to their team of champions. "We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," Steve Luczo said. "Shaq has demonstrated that leadership, competitiveness, winning and compassion can all be achieved at the same time. As one of the most recognized Champions in sports, and as a positive role model through his many community and social efforts, Shaq is the ideal individual to help Luczo Dragon Racing further its success. On top of that, his father is a military veteran, which is particularly relevant to our expanded mission of supporting wounded and fallen soldiers and their families."

With the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary partners in 2009, much of the team's charitable focus will turn to organizations that support wounded and fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Jay Penske and Luczo to raise money, increase exposure to the sport of auto racing and encourage a philanthropic spirit that inspires others to make an impact in their communities.

-credit: ldr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Robert Doornbos , Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Will Power , Hideki Mutoh
Teams Dragon Racing