Toronto: Luczo Dragon Racing preview

THIRD TRIP TO TORONTO Raphael Matos makes his third career race appearance in Toronto when he guides the Marines Luczo Dragon car to the downtown streets of Canada's most populated city. In 2007, Matos captured the pole and finished third in the...


Raphael Matos makes his third career race appearance in Toronto when he guides the Marines Luczo Dragon car to the downtown streets of Canada's most populated city. In 2007, Matos captured the pole and finished third in the Steelback Atlantic Grand Prix. A year earlier, he was leading the race before getting tangled up with Graham Rahal on the very first lap.


Raphael Matos has often talked about the lessons he has learned during his rookie season and he added another at Watkins Glen - how to climb from the back of the pack. Matos started 18th and climbed as high as seventh before finishing 12th and collecting 18 points. The six spot improvement was a career-best for the 27-year old rookie. It was his biggest climb since going from sixth to the win for Guthrie Racing in the Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg in 2006. Aside from rallying from the worst starting position of his career, Matos also recovered with no damage from a 360 spin caused by contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the very first lap at Watkins Glen.


Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are in the midst of a tight race for Rookie of the Year honors, a race that has changed hands twice now. With a ninth place finish at Watkins Glen, Doornbos moved one point in front of Matos (163-162). It is the second time the two drivers have been separated by just one point. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. Mike Conway hauled in 28 points with a sixth place finish at Watkins Glen to narrow his gap to 27 points.


Problems with the fuel sensor cost Raphael Matos a possible top 10 finish and tripped up an otherwise remarkable day at Watkins Glen. After struggling through practice and qualifying Saturday, the Luczo Dragon team made dramatic changes to the racecar that proved to be quite fruitful. Nearly midway through the race Matos climbed 11 spots from 18th to seventh before the faulty fuel gauge set him back. Even though the team performed well in the pits, the sensor allowed only 21 gallons of fuel to load instead of the full 22 gallons, causing Matos to pit a lap earlier than everyone else on each stint. He lost as many as four positions due to the malfunction.


For Luczo Dragon's chief engineer Eric Zeto, Toronto is not just another race. The 36-year old Zeto grew up just 10 miles from the site of the Honda Indy Toronto race. In fact, he could hear the cars each summer from his house. The son of Chinese immigrants, Zeto had never seen a race until he watched fellow Toronto native Scott Goodyear narrowly miss winning the Indy 500 in 1992. After that he was hooked. Zeto has been an engineer in open wheel racing since 1998 and has participated in the Toronto race seven times, landing in victory lane twice - 2003 with Paul Tracy and 2006 with AJ Almendinger. Zeto also guided Tracy to a second place finish in 2006 and Patrick Carpentier to third place in 2004.


Raphael Matos will have a short week as he prepares for Toronto. After a one-day stop home in Miami Monday, Matos will arrive in Toronto Tuesday to participate in the IndyCar Series PR Advance. He will skip the GoKart prep work he likes to do before a street course race, but not the workouts. "I have to be able to workout the entire week leading up to a race. It keeps my mind right and is very important to me. The worst thing that can happen is the hotel doesn't have a nice workout facility." He's safe in Toronto; the Fairmont Royal York has a state of the art fitness center.


"Toronto is a very challenging but fun track. It's bumpy; there are a lot of walls, low grip and different types of surfaces so as a driver you really have to be on top of your game. It takes a bit more of the driver to find the limit. You have to use every inch of the track. You definitely need a good car so that you have the confidence to push hard, but in Toronto the whole package needs to be right - the set up and the driver."


All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road courses 14 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and nine top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen Saturday, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. 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.


Raphael Matos recorded his third top 10 finish of the season with an eighth place finish in Richmond. It was the fourth 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.


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 , Scott Goodyear , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Graham Rahal , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Robert Doornbos , Skip Barber , Mike Conway , Hideki Mutoh
Teams Dragon Racing