Matos, Antinucci set for Chicagoland finale
Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci are engaged in the closest points battle in Firestone Indy Lights history. While the three-point margin presents a multitude of possibilities for either of the drivers to claim the Firestone Firehawk Cup, the easiest solution would be for one of them to win their first race on an oval.
Matos and Antinucci are both accomplished road racers who are competing on ovals for the first time in their careers.
Matos’ career is studded with championships – Champ Car Atlantic in 2007, Star Mazda in 2005 and Formula Dodge in 2003. He’s built a three-point lead over Antinucci with three victories and seven top-five finishes. His wins came on the streets of St. Petersburg and the road courses at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. His best finish on an oval is third at Milwaukee, although he won the pole at Homestead-Miami and Kentucky.
“I think the approach will be pretty much the same as everywhere we've been,” Matos said. “We show great speed pretty much everywhere we've been. Obviously we won three races on a road course, but we had two pole positions at the mile-and-a-half oval courses. We tested last week at Chicago, and we showed great speed. We definitely have a great car for that track.”
Antinucci, the nephew of Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever, cut his teeth in the competitive European ranks, winning races in Formula 3 EuroSeries, Formula 3 World Cup, British Formula Renault and Italian Formula Ford. He has wins this season at St. Petersburg and Watkins Glen, with a best finish on an oval of second at Homestead-Miami and Indianapolis.
“I'm really looking forward to this last race because we've brought ourselves to this point and we have a chance,” Antinucci said. “We're almost going in even, as if the championship race started this race. It's almost a fair crack at it.
“We've done pretty well on our last superspeedway, which is also very important. We're coming in there with momentum. We know we're very good at least in the race. I think we can pull out a good result this weekend, hopefully good enough to put two cars between us and our main contender Matos.”
Whoever emerges in front in the race and in the championship will have to do so the 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland, where last year’s race was decided by .0005 of a second and all six Firestone Indy Lights races have been decided by less than seven-tenths of a second.
“It's tough,” Matos said. “Everybody's flat out all the time. You obviously have to trust the driver that you're running side by side with. More than likely, you have someone in front of you and someone right behind you. Hopefully I will be up front so I won't have that problem.”