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Infineon: Perera marches to win in 1st Indy Lights race
Frenchman Franck Perera won the first Firestone Indy Lights race at Infineon Raceway Saturday from pole.  Raphael Matos finished 2nd and took over the point lead by 1 point.

Perera became the series-record eighth driver to win in a season by taking the Carneros 100 by 3.7395 seconds over Raphael Matos on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway course.

Matos, who joined Perera on the front row for the first of two 30-lap races on the permanent road course, finished one spot ahead of Richard Antinucci in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. The order moved Matos, driver of the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car, ahead of Antinucci in the standings by one point with two races remaining.

"We're trying to maximize the points as much as we can this weekend," said Matos, who had won the first race at the previous three doubleheader weekends (St. Petersburg, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio). "It's important that we come out of this weekend with a real chance at the championship.

"We're leading the championship by one point, so it's a good thing Richard finished behind me. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough for Perera, but it was a good race and we'll make improvements for tomorrow."

Antinucci, who won at Infineon last year, hopes to do the same. He's won the back end of two of the three doubleheader race weekends.

"The points have been tight all year," he said. "I have a lot of respect for (Matos), so hopefully we'll have a clean race, starting next to each other, and see who does better."

Perera, who started the season with Conquest Racing in the IndyCar Series, led every lap and maintained a comfortable margin over Matos (3.4143 seconds on Lap 25 and 3.9793 seconds on the white flag lap).

"It's an amazing weekend," said Perera, who also started from the pole in the first race at Watkins Glen International in early July. "It was a new track again, and we were really good. We tried to catch Raphael in the qualifying. He tested here last weekend so he had a better chance of being better than us, so it's good that we got the pole. We had a good race. The car was constant; we didn't have to push it 100 percent. It was good to have a race like that."



Driver/Car No ST Laps Status
1 Franck Perera CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing 55 1 30 Running
2 Raphael Matos Automatic Fire Sprinklers 27 2 30 Running
3 Richard Antinucci Lucas Oil / Sam Schmidt Motorsports 7 3 30 Running
4 J.R. Hildebrand Allied Building Products 25 6 30 Running
5 Logan Gomez IZOD Menards Guthrie Racing 23 4 30 Running
6 Ana Beatriz Healthy Choice/ Sam Schmidt Mtrspts 20 5 30 Running
7 Daniel Herrington Andersen Racing 5 7 30 Running
8 Pablo Donoso TMR-Cristal-Xtreme Coil Drilling 22 10 30 Running
9 Jonny Reid Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports 77 9 30 Running
10 Robbie Pecorari SAI Hydraulics Guthrie Racing 44 11 30 Running
11 Mitch Cunningham Mo'sGold 33 8 30 Running
12 Mike Potekhen SWE Racing/Lucas Oil/XFR 43 12 30 Running
13 Sean Guthrie Car Crafters Guthrie Racing 4 19 30 Running
14 James Davison Lifelock/ Sam Schmidt Motorsports 11 17 30 Running
15 Juan Manuel Polar FARO Guthrie Racing 54 20 30 Running
16 Jonathan Klein TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling 2 16 30 Running
17 Arie Luyendyk Jr. Automatic Fire Sprinklers 26 13 30 Running
18 Dillon Battistini National Guard Delphi 15 18 30 Running
19 Brent Sherman National Guard Delphi 16 21 30 Running
20 Christina Orr Alliance Motorsports 24 22 29 Running
21 Tom Dyer Michael Crawford Motorsports 6 14 27 Running
22 Cyndie Allemann American Spirit 18 15 6 Off Course
23 Mark Olson Michael Crawford Motorsports 8 23 1 Handling

Post-Race Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. We have been joined by Richard Antinucci, who finished third today. He drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. This is Richard's ninth top five finish of the season and puts him second in points. He will start sixth for tomorrow's race, as well.

We've also been joined by Raphael Matos, who finished second today, who drives for AFS Andretti Green Racing. He is the new leader in the Firestone Indy Lights Series by one point, and this was his seventh top five finish of the season.

So I'll open it up to you both. How did the race go for you guys, and how were things out on the track? 

RICHARD ANTINUCCI: It was a pretty straightforward race in the sense that this is the order that we had in qualifying, and it seems to reflect the two performances in the race. I think Raphael Matos was a little bit quicker than me over the course of the race, and Perera was probably the same amount quicker than him, or maybe a little less.

I had a great start, and unfortunately I was radioed immediately halfway through the first lap to relinquish that position and give it back to Matos, so I went wide in the last corner. I didn't actually want to let him by in that way. It's a little weird. But I locked up, and I said, the hell with it, I'll go wide here and let him by, and I can get behind him without risking getting passed by someone else.

The rest was pretty good. We have a draw that we start sixth tomorrow, and it's going to be a tough race. The points have been tight all year. I have a lot of respect for my rival sitting here next to me, so hopefully we'll have a clean race, start next to each other and see who does better.

RAPHAEL MATOS: As Richard said, this track, I think, is extremely difficult to pass. We missed the pole yesterday. It was a bit unfortunate. And that kind of put us a little bit behind.

But we did what we had to do. We maximized our points today. Had enough for Antinucci, didn't have enough for Franck, so hopefully tomorrow we'll make the proper changes to the race car and try to get another strong finish. We're looking good in the championship, leading the championship by one point. But it's far from being over yet. We've got to keep working and pushing and improving the car, improving myself, and hopefully we'll be contenders in Chicago and we'll be fighting for the title in Chicago.

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by race winner Franck Perera, who drives for Guthrie Racing. This was Franck's first Indy Lights win, which he did from the pole. And the win also marks a record for the IndyCar Series as the eighth winner of the season, so the eighth different winner this season.

Franck, congratulations. Maybe you can talk us through your race a little bit today.

FRANCK PERERA: Yeah, it was a good race. The start was really important. It was a new corner, you know, and I was like on the left, and so it was not easy, I think, for everybody to make it good. It was good, you know, and then Richard was behind me, but he had a mistake, and I think he told me that he let me pass Rafa.

Then we had some safety cars, so we had a big gap and we had to try again to have another gap. But the car was good all the time and it was pretty easy for me to make a huge    enough gap to keep Rafa far from me.

And then the car was perfect, and in the last lap, and I was able to push sometimes and to release. It's good, the team did a good job, and it's good to have done the job with a new track and we were pretty far to him. It's really good what we did.

And tomorrow is going to be tough, but we have the speed to go back in the top three, so we're going to see.

Q. This is for anybody. They said they changed the configuration of the track to allow for more passing. My eyes aren't that good, but I didn't see a whole lot of it. Is this place still difficult to pass, or did that help at all?

FRANCK PERERA: Well, for me it's a new track so I don't know how it was before. But I think if you have this    in practice we are all together, so you can see.

But no, I think if you have the speed you are able to pass. It's just some points are pretty risky, and the track is also pretty slippery when you're out of the lines, so it's not that easy.

RAPHAEL MATOS: Yeah, I think it's very difficult. The only place I believe you can pass is going to Turn 7, but Turn 6 is such a high speed corner, you don't have good enough balance to get a good run going to 7. So it's very difficult. Especially, you go over the crest, the car loses downforce and loses grip over the crest. It's very tough.

Q. Franck, getting that first victory, how big a deal is that to you?

FRANCK PERERA: It's just good, you know, I had a tough season going to Champ Car, and then it was next with IndyCar and then I was in the biggest series in America with Conquest. I had a very good start of the season in IndyCar for the oval, you know; I had never been in oval. St. Pete was good, Long Beach in Champ Car was also good. Then sponsor of the team had a problem so they had to replace me by somebody, you know, who has more money than me.

So then you have to find a solution to drive, because my goal is to stay in America and to be a professional here, and the IndyCar Series is the best for me. So I decide to go in Indy Lights, and it is the best series for experience for oval, and I can show in the road course what I can do. And they give me a chance at CJ Motorsports, so it's good to finally get a victory. Watkins Glen we are pretty close but we have some problems in the race. I just have to improve now in the final race in Chicago.

Q. Franck, you obviously had the car to stay out front and not get passed. If you would have started second or third, do you think you would have had the car to pass somebody else?

FRANCK PERERA: Maybe, you never know. It's difficult, you know. I think all weekend top three were pretty close, you know, and the race was different.

But we will see tomorrow. We're going to start all three in the back, and I think some guys in the front we have    after ten laps it will be a big difference to compare us. So I think it will be an interesting race tomorrow.

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