AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY RICHARD ANTINUCCI IS RUNNER-UP TO FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 WINNER DILLON BATTISTINI After hard-fought round at the Brickyard, the Italian-American driver takes back the lead in the Firestone Indy Lights standings by 3...
AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY RICHARD ANTINUCCI IS RUNNER-UP TO FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 WINNER DILLON BATTISTINI
After hard-fought round at the Brickyard, the Italian-American driver takes back the lead in the Firestone Indy Lights standings by 3 points over today's race winner, leapfrogging previous leader JR Hildebrand, who ends up 24th.
Richard Antinucci bounced back in style from a subdued weekend at Kansas, putting in an impressive drive today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Firestone Freedom 100 was moved from Friday to Saturday after rain hampered the Carb Day schedule. Antinucci, who was starting from the outside of Row 3, took a guarded approach in the early stages of the race : after a quarter's race distance he was seventh after having slingshotted around Brazilian Raphael Matos, who started next to him on the grid. Soon thereafter the San Diego-based driver charged through the top of the 27-car field and by the half-race mark he was fighting for the lead with Wade Cunningham and pole sitter Dillon Battistini, who had grabbed the lead on Lap 8. The second of Saturday's three re-starts gave Kansas winner JR Hildebrand a chance to carve his way back into the Top 3, but Antinucci brilliantly withstood pressure from him, whereas Hildebrand was left to tangle with Antinucci's team mate James Davison. Both drivers dropped down the order and another caution was needed to clear their debris from the track.
During the final 8-lap dash Antinucci overtook Cunningham for P2 on lap 34, then he spent the last six laps looking for an opening to pass the Englishman, which failed to materialize. Battistini held on to claim his second Indy Lights win by 0.2458/second. Richard's third 2008 runner up finish was good enough to put him back in first place in the standings. And the Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver was pretty satisfied with the Brickyard's outcome : "After some warning signs we have had in practice Thursday, tyre wear was a major concern here for us. We ran really conservative, with a lot of downforce. We were really quick in the corners, and after a bit of oversteer at the start, the car got better and better. I want to thank my crew and my engineer because they gave me a car that was terrific at the end. Great to drive and excellently balanced, allowing me to make many moves on the outside line. But obviously trying to pass in the straights was difficult. I just kept hitting the (rev) limiter. I gave my all to pass Battistini on the final lap, but he took the inside line, which ended up being the race winning defence. I have to congratulate him and his team, he ran some pretty good times by himself, without a tow, and this shows how good a job Panther Racing has done. We know that they'll be a force to be reckoned with this season given their impressive performances on ovals thus far, but we are not afraid to work hard to beat them. I would have loved to win here of course, but runner up is still the second best result, and this gives me back the lead in the points standings. This is definitely a nice step forward."