First-time winner Antinucci eyes IndyCar Series
Indy Pro Series road course races are seasoning for first-year driver Richard Antinucci. Ovals might be added to the mix soon, with the goal of competing full time in the IndyCar Series.
Antinucci, who started fourth in the inaugural Mid-Ohio 100 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, accepted the winner's trophy for the first time in his brief Indy Pro Series career. The 26-year-old nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. led 2005 series champion Wade Cunningham across the finish line by 0.9588 of a second.
The native of Rome did not have experience on the American circuits, but he's well-acquainted with stiff competition on European courses.
"With our limited resources, we decided to maximize what we knew and try to make an impact as quickly as possible," he said. "Coming from a European background on road courses, we thought that we could have a better impact sooner with the road course races.
"But we need to get on ovals because our goal is (the IndyCar Series). It's what I want to do. I feel more comfortable living back in the States, too. I'm working with my uncle. I want to be an (IndyCar Series) driver who can fight for wins, not just fill in the numbers."
After competing on the streets of St. Petersburg (Fla.), where he finished 19th and 15th in the No. 51 Cheever Racing car, Antinucci has recorded five consecutive top-10 finishes. Fifth in the second race at Watkins Glen International earlier this month, where he advanced three positions, had been the high-water mark.
Now, with more seat time and a growing confidence, he's looking forward to competing at Infineon Raceway in August - and beyond.
"We've really learned a lot coming into our fourth weekend," said Antinucci, who last year competed in the Formula 3 Euroseries. "This is the only track we've tested at before we've raced. That underlines the potential. Because when you don't know a track, it's kind of hard to learn the ropes and get up to pace with limited testing.
"Watkins Glen is a very particular track that has unorthodox characteristics. On one side you have to be geared in a certain way, and on the other side in another, and setup as well in terms of chassis. We were seven seconds off as soon as we got to Watkins Glen. In the next half an hour we were four seconds off, then two, and then we were basically the pace. You can do all of those leaps in one test day.
"We came here, rolled out of the pits, maybe were a little bit off, made a couple tweaks, but we were there. So that's how important it is."