Chicagoland: Series qualifying notes

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 - Firestone Indy Lights points leader Raphael Matos won the pole for the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos leads Richard Antinucci by four points, the closest margin entering the final race in series...

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 - Firestone Indy Lights points leader Raphael Matos won the pole for the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos leads Richard Antinucci by four points, the closest margin entering the final race in series history. Antinucci will start ninth.

Ana Beatriz qualified second, her third front row start of the season.

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Greg Beck and Steve Sudler have partnered to form Team 3G LLC with intentions to compete in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights in 2009.

Beck is veteran IndyCar Series team owner, while Sudler brings 15 years of motorsports sponsorship and marketing experience to the team.

GREG BECK: "The IndyCar Series is growing in popularity, yet remains a great value for corporate marketers. Now is the time to build an organization that places emphasis on bringing new drivers and sponsors into the sport. With a unified IndyCar Series, there has been greater interest from drivers around the world wishing to compete in the championship. I have had a long association with Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian, which we will continue and build upon, including a Curb/Agajanian entry in the Indy 500."

STEVE SUDLER: "I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best brands, teams and agencies in the sports business. The IndyCar Series is showing phenomenal growth in terms of fan support, which leads to increased interest from potential sponsor partners. This is certainly the time to combine my marketing expertise with Greg's ability to build a competitive racing organization."

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Several Firestone Indy Lights drivers have changed seats for this weekend's events at Chicagoland Speedway.

Dillon Battistini, who enters the SunRichGourmet.com 100 in fifth place in the driver standings with a series-best four wins, left Panther Racing following the Infineon Raceway doubleheader and signed to drive a one-race deal to drive the No. 22 car for Team Moore Racing.

With Team E not running at Chicago, Milwaukee race winner Bobby Wilson has joined Panther Racing to take over Battistini's seat.

Other changes this weekend include Pablo Donoso making his second start in the No. 3 Mo'sGold entry and 2005 series champion Wade Cunningham driving the No. 9 Integra Motorsports entry.

DILLON BATTISTINI: "I'm thankful for opportunity to drive for Team Moore Racing this weekend. I hope to be able to rack up my fifth win of the season. I'm glad I am able to explore my options for next year and gain experience with working with a new team."

BOBBY WILSON: "The No. 15 car has high expectations. It's definitely capable of being in the Winner's Circle every time on an oval, and that's where I expect to put it for the National Guard and Panther. It's different working with a new group of guys, but they have been really nice and helpful; it makes the adjustment easier. It will help when I can get all the names and faces put together, but I think that it will be a successful weekend."

WADE CUNNINGHAM: "I've known (Integra Motorsports owner) David (Hunt) for quite some time, and I'm happy he's giving me this chance to compete again at Chicagoland. It's great to get the opportunity to work with Doug (Zister) again, and I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Everyone is working on what we will be doing next season, and it is important for me to keep my name in the mix with new opportunities in the Indy Car Series. Hopefully, I can post a good result for the team and help them carry momentum into their off-season preparation for next year."

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HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins announced Sept. 6 that he will form a two-car entry in the Firestone Indy Lights for the 2009 season.

Wiggins recently acquired the assets of Michael Crawford Motorsports from veteran team owner Michael Crawford, who will remain with the team as its general manager.

Crawford has been a major player in the Firestone Indy Lights since the series' inception in 2002. He served as general manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports before taking ownership of his own team in 2006.

KEITH WIGGINS: "This has been the plan since we committed to the Indy Racing League. We didn't want to come into this league and just be another team. We want to be a premier team, but also understand it takes the necessary steps. The move into the Firestone Indy Lights is very important to us. This will allow us to immediately become a stronger team in 2009. We are going to add additional engineers, mechanics, and obviously we have begun the process of searching for drivers that are the right fit for the HVM Racing brand now and in the future."

MICHAEL CRAWFORD: "I am thrilled to be joining HVM. I look forward to delivering race wins and a championship run in 2009. Keith (Wiggins) has a super organization, and HVM's expansion into the Firestone Indy Lights comes at a perfect time for us to work together. We will begin finalizing our driver lineup and infrastructure immediately after Chicago."

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Homestead-Miami Speedway president Curtis Gray is at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, observing the championship battles in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. Beginning next season, Homestead-Miami will play host to the series' championship weekend.

CURTIS GRAY: "The thing about the IndyCar Series - and both series really - is it lends itself to some exciting finishes toward the end of the year even without a chase-type format like NASCAR has. The (2007) championship coming down to the last turn of the last lap of the last race was exciting, and this year with Helio (Castroneves) and Scott (Dixon) going back and forth has equaled that excitement. I think it's just great competitive racing. I think (next October) will excite in South Florida in addition to the rest of the country. So what we want to do is build a whole championship atmosphere around that last event of the season, and we're so excited to be hosting the championship events."

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2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd has re-signed with Target Chip Ganassi Racing for 2009. Lloyd competed in the Indianapolis 500 this season, finishing 25th. He is scheduled to co-drive the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Daytona Prototype with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the Grand-Am Series race in Utah next weekend.

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SWE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Raphael Matos' fifth pole of the season and the sixth of his career. Matos also had the pole on the 1.5-mile ovals at Homestead-Miami and Kentucky. He finished eighth and sixth, respectively, in those races.

* Matos also won poles on the road/street courses at St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio.

* Matos earns one point for winning the pole and has a four-point lead over Richard Antinucci entering the race.

* Ana Beatriz qualified second, tying her best qualifying efforts at Nashville and Kentucky.

* Arie Luyendyk Jr. qualified third for his sixth top-five start of the season.

* Matos, Beatriz and Luyendyk also qualified 1-2-3 at Kentucky in August, the most recent oval race.

* Mike Potekhen qualified a season-best fourth. His previous best start of the season was 12th at Infineon. His career-best start was third at Indianapolis in 2007.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, qualified first): "It's another point that we definitely needed. We have a four-point lead now, and we'll see what happens tomorrow. We're 67 laps away from the title. There's a lot of work and hard racing tomorrow."

(Does the pole put pressure on your title rival) "I feel great about my car. I feel great about the opportunity. We've been good all year long. We've had some ups and down this season, but we've found good momentum. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into tomorrow."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): "It's my first time here at Chicagoland, and we were really focused this morning on race setup. After the second practice, we focused on qualifying. I think my Healthy Choice Sam Schmidt crew did a really good job. I think it was a very good run. I was really wishing I could stay in the top three, so the second position is pretty good. (Raphael) Matos went really, really fast. I don't know what he did, but I'm very confident for the race tomorrow."

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, ninth): "I thought we had a little more (in the car). In testing in the morning, we ended up pretty well in qualifying trim, but the race is what counts and that's what we spent most of our time doing. Tomorrow is when it's all decided. Rafa (Matos) got an extra point today, we just need to go out tomorrow and win the damned thing."

(What's your strategy): "It's attack. I need to move as far ahead as I can. There's not much to lose. We have to go for the win."

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on 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 concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Pruett , Sam Schmidt , Memo Rojas , Richard Antinucci , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Pablo Donoso , Wade Cunningham , Bobby Wilson , Mike Potekhen , Felix Sabates , Ana Beatriz , Dillon Battistini , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , HVM Racing