Luczo Dragon month of May preview Raphael Matos will attempt to keep Luczo Dragon's perfect Indianapolis 500 Pole Day qualifying record intact. In two previous appearances at the Indy 500, Luczo Dragon has qualified seventh and 11th to land in the first day field. In their only race in 2007, Ryan Briscoe qualified seventh at 224.410 mph, while Tomas Scheckter grabbed the final spot in 2008 with a 223.496 average speed.
Raphael Matos joins Stanton Barrett, Mike Conway and Robert Doornbos as the four rookies in the field at the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Doornbos has the early lead in the rookie point standings with Matos running second. The foursome will enter the Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program with first practice set for Tuesday, May 5 from 2-5 p.m. The second practice session will be Wednesday, May 6 from 9-2 p.m. Upon completion of the program they will join the rest of the field for practice from 2-6 p.m. Will Power was the fastest rookie in the first session in 2008, while Alex Lloyd claimed the top spot in the second rookie practice. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the 2008 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
The 2009 IndyCar season marks the fifth time Raphael Matos has been a rookie in an American racing series. He has proven to be quite competitive in each of his debut seasons. Matos was Skip Barber Rookie of the Year after winning the Formula Dodge National Shootout in 2002. He was a Star Mazda series rookie in 2004, finishing seventh in the standings despite not starting until week two. He claimed one pole at Mosport and had a season- best second place finish at Road America that year. Matos made the jump to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Series in 2006 and finished fourth in the point standings for the Sierra Sierra team. He recorded one win (San Jose), three poles, four podium finishes and was second in laps led. With Andretti Green Racing in 2008, Matos secured the Firestone Indy Lights crown with three wins, eight top 5s and 13 top 10s. He led the league in poles (5), top 10 finishes (13), laps led (190) and races led (5).
Being a rookie does not mean you have to struggle at the Indianapolis 500. Over the last 10 races (1999-2008), there have been two rookies who have won the race and 12 who have qualified in the top 10. Juan Pablo Montoya became the first rookie to win the race in 34 years when he claimed the title in 2000. Helio Castroneves made it back-to-back rookie winners with the first of his two Indy 500 titles in 2001. Montoya has the highest starting position (2nd) for a rookie in the last 10 years, while Tony Kanaan's 230.253 mph in 2002 is the fastest qualifying speed by a rookie since 1999. Scott Dixon qualified with an average speed of 230.099 in 2003 to rank second. The 2003 race featured four rookies starting in the top 10 - Dixon (4th), Dan Wheldon (5th), Tora Takagi (7th) and Tony Renna (8th).
RAFA'S INDY LIGHTS EXPERIENCE AT IMS
"My experience in Indy Lights last year should help a little bit because I've been on the track and have run behind people. Qualifying is similar and I have a sense for what the car is supposed to feel like. I've had a lot of track time there so it should help a little bit."
RAFA'S INDY SCOUTING REPORT
"Turn 1 is the toughest because it's blind, you're going really fast and there's a change of elevation on entry. Indy is an oval but it's more like a road course because you need the car to handle really well to be flat out or close to flat out all the way around the track. With the other ovals like Kansas and Kentucky, there's a lot of banking, but at Indy there's almost no banking."
RAFA'S INDY 500 MOMENT
"My greatest memory of the Indy 500 is standing on the grid five minutes before the race last year and seeing just how big it is. You know that it's the biggest race on the planet, but you really don't know how big until you experience it in person and look into the crowd. You feel the history and the excitement. It's like the biggest soccer game in Brazil times 10."
LDR PIT CREW ASSIGNMENTS
Race strategist - Jay Penske; Engineer - Ray Leto; Engineer/Fuel data - Brian Page; Data engineer/Fuel deadman - Daniel Louks; Chief Mechanic/outside front - John Piccinotti; Inside front - Josh Junge; Outside rear - Rob Maxey; Inside rear - Tim White; Jackman - Pete Bloathner; Fueler - James Stevens; Front tire pass - Simon Morley; Rear tire pass - Scott Simpson; Stop Sign - John Cummiskey; Front hose pull - Darren Newport; Spotter - Cole Carter
By partnering with a dozen champion athletes each of the last two years, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. With the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary partners in 2009, much of the team's charitable focus will turn to organizations that support fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Steve Luczo and Jay Penske to raise money, increase exposure to the sport of auto racing and encourage a philanthropic spirit that inspires others to make an impact in their communities.
The beneficiaries of the Luczo Dragon profit donation program have been: Always Dream Foundation (Kristi Yamaguchi), All Stars Helping Kids (Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott), Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (Brandi Chastain), Chase the Stars Foundation (Kerri Walsh), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Indiana Chapter (Rick Mears), Donovan McNabb Foundation (Donovan McNabb), Fisher House, Colorado Chapter (John Elway), Four Rings Montana Family Foundation (Joe Montana), Jackson Community College Foundation - Wilbur Dungy Endowment (Tony Dungy), Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation (Joe Torre), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Sugar Ray Leonard), Northern California Special Olympics/Camp Okizu (Chris Mullin), Serena Williams Foundation (Serena Williams), Sports4Kids (Natalie Coughlin), Steve Nash Foundation (Steve Nash), Success Through the Arts Foundation (Jackson Browne), Team Play (Baron Davis), The B'Leaf Team ALS Patient Care (Joe Thornton), Turtle Ridge Foundation (Bode Miller), UNESCO (Venus Williams), Wayne Gretzky Foundation (Wayne Gretzky), Women's Sports Foundation (Laila Ali). Luczo Dragon PR