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Not a happy birthday for Raphael Matos in Chicago
Matos has struggled transitioning up to the IndyCars
The de Ferran Dragon racing team learned what bittersweet tastes like at the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. On the one hand, Davey Hamilton returned to his first mile and a half oval race in nine years and produced an inspiring run, while teammate Raphael Matos was taken into the wall by a chain reaction crash early in the race.

“It’s awfully disappointing on one end because Rafa had a good car and a great chance tonight,” managing partner and team president Gil de Ferran said. “On the other hand, I’m very happy for Davey. He really did a great job. It’s extremely difficult to race that close at over 200 miles an hour for full time drivers. For Davey to come in and do it after a long layoff is really remarkable. You could see him really get into the groove as the race went on.”

Matos, who was celebrating his 29th birthday, got off to a promising start, climbing three spots to 15th in the first three laps. But on lap five, everything changed. A spinning Tomas Scheckter and several hard breaking cars in front of him left Matos with nowhere to go. He clipped the right rear of Alex Lloyd’s car and was sent into the wall, ending his race before it really started.

“The car was running really well and we were gaining spots,” Matos said. “I don't really know what happened in front of me. Alex checked up and I had no time to react. I caught his right rear tire and hit the wall. I'm lucky that I didn't get airborne. I feel bad for the team. We had a really good racecar.”

Hamilton’s race day was very different from qualifying. He started 28th, but in the end improved 10 spots to finish 18th just one lap down on the winners.

“For being out of the car for nine years on a mile and a half oval I feel pretty good,” Hamilton said. “Unfortunately we struggled quite a bit in practice and we didn't have the gearing tonight to compete with the main pack. But all things considered, the HP car was good. I felt more confident and comfortable as the race went on and could make choices on the track in traffic. I don't know the guys well enough so at times when I wanted to use the top line it got taken away and I had to stay low. That cost me a couple spots, but by the end I was using the top line and felt really competitive.”
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