Intense battle for Firestone Firehawk Cup
One of the closest title battles in Firestone Indy Lights history is also one of its most competitive.
With four races remaining in the battle for the 2008 Firestone Firehawk Cup, 15 drivers are mathematically eligible to win, with frontrunners Raphael Matos, Ana Beatriz, J.R. Hildebrand, Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Dillon Battistini within 77 points of points leader Richard Antinucci.
Antinucci, who leads with 376 points, has a 1-point advantage over Matos. Antinucci has held the points lead after seven of 12 races this season, and hasn't been lower than second. The nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, Eddie Cheever, has two wins and leads the series with seven podium finishes.
Matos, who is hoping to add his third championship crown in four seasons, has stayed in close contact with the leaders all season. Matos has a series-best three victories – all on road/street courses – and climbed from fourth to the top of the point standings from Watkins Glen to Mid-Ohio.
Beatriz, the first female driver to win a Firestone Indy Lights race, moved from sixth to third following her win at Nashville Superspeedway. Beatriz, who has five top-five finishes in the last six races, trails Antinucci, her Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate, by 41 points.
Hildebrand is just seven points behind Beatriz for third. The Sausalito, Calif., driver has more top-10 finishes than any other driver in the series (10) and a victory at Kansas Speedway in April.
Luyendyk, the most experienced driver in the series, has put together a solid season despite being in the shadow of his teammate Matos. The son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk won the pole for the Iowa race and finished a season-best second. He's 60 points behind Antinucci.
Battistini, who is tied with Matos for most wins, is 77 points behind Antinucci. The Panther Racing driver has not been lower than sixth in the point standings all season and led the standings following his victory at Iowa in June.