Is Matos Champ Car bound? Yeah it's early in the season, only 25% of the races run, but so dominant has been Raphael Matos and the Sierra Sierra team one has to believe Matos is beginning to smell that $2M prize that the Champ Car Atlantic champion gets to move up to Champ Car. With Lee Dykstra as their lead engineer, and Matos and Hinchcliffe as drivers, we would not be at all surprised to see Matos move up to Champ Car next year with the Sierra Sierra team. Time will tell, but that's our prediction now.
Houston, TX – The Sierra Sierra Enterprises team could not have hoped for a stronger start to the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season with Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks), winning his third consecutive race and James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) taking third at the Grand Prix of Houston.
“It was almost a perfect weekend. I didn’t get the fastest lap but with the win I was able to extend my points lead – I’m very happy. We made a lot of progress on both qualifying sessions. The track changed a lot during the weekend so we had to make a lot of adjustments. The race was quite difficult with Carl (Carl Skerlong - #24 King Taco/USRT) having such a strong pace. I had to carefully manage my gap with him – especially with the traffic at the end of the race. It was a great win for the whole team,” said Matos.
This win was especially sweet for Matos who is the first Atlantic driver to win three consecutive season opening races in 17 years – a record held by Mark Dismore who went on to win his division. Matos’ goal is to continue to approach the season race-by-race and build upon his growing list of 2007 accolades in hopes of winning the season. Matos leads the series in the championship race with 98 points. His nearest competitor, Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor), trails him by 23 points.
It was also a great weekend for James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks), claiming the 3rd place spot on the podium for the first time this season. Starting the race in 2nd position next to Matos, Hinchcliffe was unable to hold back Skerlong who made his move for 2nd at the start.
“We had a car strong enough for 2nd. Unfortunately, Carl made a move on the start when Rafa took a very cautious entry to corner one. From there, it was just really hard to pass when the top guys are all so close. I saw Carl tap the wall a few times and I thought for sure he would have damaged his car. But a podium is a great result for Sierra Sierra, and now I am just dreading a 5 week break before we get to do it again!” said Hinchcliffe anxiously.
The Sierra Sierra Enterprises team is heading home for a well deserved break during the six week hiatus between races. The team will be busy analyzing data from the first three rounds and looking for ways to further enhance the set up. As a team, everyone is working very hard to make sure that the success gained in the first three rounds continues.
”As a team we are really gelling well together. Based upon our results at this early stage of the season, we are further along than we expected to be at this point. But knowing how well everyone is working together, it’s not surprising. Certainly a lot of credit needs to go to the engineers and crew because for 3 races in a row the cars have rolled off the trailer perfect – that’s a rare thing”, commented Dave Empringham, Driver Development Coach for Sierra Sierra.
The next race will prove to be exciting as the talented field of Atlantic drivers head to Portland June 9-10 for a doubleheader weekend at Portland International Raceway for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe’s.
The Grand Prix of Houston will air (tape-delayed) on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 26. For more information about Sierra Sierra Enterprises and their drivers, please visit www.sierrasierra.com