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Matos tops opening Indy Lights practice
Raphael Matos
With 105 points possible in the Carneros 100 and Valley of the Moon 100 Aug. 23-24 at Infineon Raceway, the drivers in contention for the Firestone Indy Lights title know anything can happen.

Raphael Matos, who trails Richard Antinucci by four points, put the other contenders on notice during an Open Test Aug. 21 on the 12-turn, 2.245-mile circuit, with a fast lap more than a second better than anybody else. 

Matos lapped the course in 1 minute, 23.4281 seconds, 99.377 mph, while J.R. Hildebrand, who is sixth in points, was second with a lap at 1:24.4535, 98.170 mph. 

“I think people will catch up to us throughout the weekend,” said Matos, who tested an IndyCar Series car at the track last week. “The car was really strong from the beginning of the test. It was really good right out of the trailer. The AFS/Andretti Green crew did a fantastic job and I just have to thank them for that. I think we'll improve a little bit more, but I think everyone else will improve as well. Hopefully we can maintain the advantage that we have so we can fight for the pole be in good shape for the race and the championship.” 

Hildebrand, a Bay Area native who won at Kansas in April, hopes to narrow his 71-point deficit. 

“I feel really good,” said Hildebrand. “We had a really productive test day last week that I almost wish we had earlier on in the season because we found a lot of stuff. And this being my home track, I have a lot of track knowledge. I think we’re looking pretty good. I think that’s a pretty competitive time. I think some of the other guys used an extra set of tires and we didn’t – we just used one (set) throughout the day. I think we’ll be looking pretty good for tomorrow.” 

Antinucci, who is aiming for Sam Schmidt Motorsports' third consecutive driver's championship, was fifth quick.  

"Having a lead does help your confidence, but there's a long way to go so we have to take it one weekend at a time, looking race-by-race," Antinucci said. "I've won Cup races before, big titles like a F3 FIA world championship, one-off event or two events. So far I've never won a long-distance championship — but I've watched people do it before, and they take it race-by-race and be as humble as they can. I have no choice but to be humble because I'm not exactly running away with a 200-point lead." 

Antinucci also brings in the confidence of having won the SWE Pole Award and the Valley of the Moon 100 a year ago.

Results Thursday for the Firestone Indy Lights Open Test on the 2.245-mile Infineon Raceway, with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed:

1. (27) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 99.377
2. (25) J.R. Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 98.170
3. (55) Franck Perera, Dallara-Honda, 98.100
4. (22) Pablo Donoso, Dallara-Honda, 98.026
5. (7) Richard Antinucci, Dallara-Honda, 97.615
6. (20) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 97.582
7. (77) Jonny Reid, Dallara-Honda, 97.368
8. (5) Daniel Herrington, Dallara-Honda, 97.318
9. (26) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Dallara-Honda, 97.275
10. (2) Jonathan Klein, Dallara-Honda, 97.172
11. (23) Logan Gomez, Dallara-Honda, 97.150
12. (11) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 97.076
13. (33) Mitch Cunningham, Dallara-Honda, 97.035
14. (44) Robbie Pecorari, Dallara-Honda, 96.813
15. (15) Dillon Battistini, Dallara-Honda, 96.785
16. (4) Sean Guthrie, Dallara-Honda, 96.620
17. (54) Juan Manuel Polar, Dallara-Honda, 96.278
18. (43) Mike Potekhen, Dallara-Honda, 96.263
19. (18) Cyndie Allemann, Dallara-Honda, 96.074
20. (6) Tom Dyer, Dallara-Honda, 95.733
21. (16) Brent Sherman, Dallara-Honda, 94.524
22. (24) Christina Orr, Dallara-Honda, 91.820
23. (8) Mark Olson, Dallara-Honda, 91.252
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