Watkins Glen: Luczo Dragon Racing preview

SUCCESS AT WATKINS GLEN When the IndyCar series arrives in Watkins Glen this weekend, Raphael Matos will be returning to not only one of his favorite tracks, but also one on which he has been particularly successful. In two Firestone Indy ...


When the IndyCar series arrives in Watkins Glen this weekend, Raphael Matos will be returning to not only one of his favorite tracks, but also one on which he has been particularly successful. In two Firestone Indy Lights races at the Glen last year, Matos finished first and second, starting second and sixth respectively. His first Indy Lights appearance at Watkins Glen came in 2006 for Guthrie Racing. Contact left him 13th.


Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are in the midst of a tight race at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings. With an eighth place finish in Richmond, Matos increased his lead over Doornbos to three points (144-141) and has now maintained the top spot for four races. Doornbos led by as many as 11 points for the first four races before Matos' career-best sixth place finish and 28 points at the Milwaukee Mile vaulted him into the top spot.


The battle between rookies Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos is certainly noticeable in the standings, but has been particularly evident in the last three races as neither wants to lose any ground to the other. Matos and Doornbos have finished right behind one another

in each of the last three races. When Doornbos crossed the finish line in 11th in Texas, Matos was right behind him in 12th. When Matos' day ended early in Iowa, Doornbos returned from his earlier troubles to squeeze in just enough laps to finish 15th to Matos' 16th. In Richmond, Matos finished eighth, his third top 10 of the season and one spot in front of his rookie rival.


By collecting 24 points in Richmond, Raphael Matos moved up two spots to 11th in the overall standings, his highest ranking of the season. He is 30 points short of cracking the top 10.


The top 10 finish in Richmond gives the Luczo Dragon Racing team some momentum heading into three consecutive road course races. In the first two races on the streets (St. Petersburg and Long Beach), Raphael Matos has proven he can compete with the series leaders. In St. Pete he qualified ninth and had a strong car before colliding with Danica Patrick. In Long Beach, Matos qualified third and took the lead for two laps, the first laps led in team history, before finishing eighth.


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 13 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 13 tries. Matos' lowest road course qualifying effort was 11th at Watkins Glen in 2006. Since that time he has 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 has 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.


One thing Raphael Matos likes to do to prepare for a road course race is go to the GoKart track. Matos was at the Homestead track Tuesday for several hours preparing for this weekend's race at Watkins Glen. It was his first real visit to the track since the end of April before departing for Indy. "I haven't turned right in two months. Being at the GoKart track makes you work really hard on your reflexes, your concentration. You can simulate so many things there like qualifying runs, long runs on fuel, everything. The best thing is it gets your body back to how it feels on a road course."


"We don't have a lot of track time at Watkins Glen. We have a strong car on road courses and I like the way our engineer Eric Zeto thinks. Hopefully we'll be good right out of the box."


"Watkins Glen is one of the best tracks on the planet. It's a very fast flowing track with a lot of elevation changes. It's very fun to drive when the car gives you confidence in the fast corners. It's very important for the driver to be on top of his equipment and for the set up to be good. You will see long straights so the car must be very quick on acceleration and top speed."


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 Robert Doornbos , Skip Barber , Danica Patrick
Teams Dragon Racing