STREET FIGHT IN ST.PETE WINDS UP WITH THIRD FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS CAREER WIN FOR RICHARD ANTINUCCI On the temporary 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, the first win for the Sam Schmidt Motorsport stable gives San Diego-based driver a ...
STREET FIGHT IN ST.PETE WINDS UP WITH THIRD FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS CAREER WIN FOR RICHARD ANTINUCCI
On the temporary 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, the first win for the Sam Schmidt Motorsport stable gives San Diego-based driver a temporary 28-points cushion over Brazilian Raphael Matos after three rounds.
Richard Antinucci posted his first 2008 win at St. Pete street course today, after a hard-fought battle that has seen three lead changes: the last was the decisive one, when on lap 32 the 27-year old driver and Ana Beatriz made contact at Turn 1 after a move of the #7 Lucas Oil Dallara on the inside of the car driven by the daring Brazilian. The female driver spun and then collect a backmarker while trying to resume, therefore failing to finish in what could possibly have been a Sam Schmidt Motorsport 1-2 race. After the race the Italian-American was docked 10 points from the standings for his harsh manners with the young Lady.
Antinucci, starting from the inside of row 2 of the reverse grid had struggled at the beginning, as the roll of dice at Turn 1 wound up blocking him up and letting JR Hildebrand and Andrew Prendeville by him. The first of the morning's five restarts offered to the Rome-born driver a chance to get back from Prendeville the 5th place. On lap 14 Antinucci and Raphael Matos --winner of Saturday's race-- made a spectacular manoeuvre on Prendeville, both passing the rival at Turn 1. This moved Antinucci up to 4th, while the Brazilian Matos was getting on the wheels of national Beatriz, who had been trailing leader Jeff Simmons. Just past mid-race the female driver had to let Matos go, and Antinucci started to grow bigger in Ana Beatriz' mirrors. On lap 26 while battling for the lead Matos and Simmons collided, and whilst the American went into a spin, the Andretti Green/AFS driver had to stop at the pits with a flat spotted front left tyre. The fourth full course yellow again bunched up the pack, and when the course was clear Antinucci chased the leading Lady until their Turn 1 impromptu waltz. The last yellow flag period left the Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver with just 4 laps remaining to make sure to clinch his initial win in the #7 Dallara, which Antinucci did edging Hildebrand by 1.5415, sealing a 1-2 for racers who call California home (JR hails from Sausalito).
After completion of the three Florida Firestone Indy Lights rounds, Antinucci has under his belt 122 points, 28 clear of yesterday's winner Matos and 41 over initial leader Dillon Battistini, who today wound up 4th after a comeback race. The visit to the winners' circle made the Italian-American smile, but he did not feel like celebrating yet: "To win is my goal, of course, but I don't feel like am gonna say I am elated. I don't wanna be leading a championship getting always second places, therefore winning my first race with Sam Schmidt Motorsport was obiously very important. We made a few changes to the car last night with my race engineer (Aussie Tim Neff) and I think that helped. We slowly took our stride today and I think the move we made would have helped to show our pace in the end, but the cautions have been hindering the flow of the race and it's been a kind of an uphill battle today."
"The thing with Ana Beatriz's been quite an unfortunate thing. We were both trying hard to pick our first season win, and I wanna apologize, we have to be extra careful among team mates, what happened today would have been just one of those racing things if we had been rivals, but it's quite unfortunate that this had two of Sam cars involved. We were fighting out there and I didn't want to make a dangerous move, but I just ran out of room. I tried as hard as I could not to hit her, I even climbed on the kerbs that normally you don't, but to no avail. The tip of my front wing could have easily crashed on her rear tyre there and ruin my race as well. I'd rather finish second than do it this way, to be honest. But I know that she's a real driver, she's not a whiner and she'll understand. I've been saying that she's a great driver since winter testing and what she was doing was incredible."