2009 IRL Team Reports: Luczo-Dragon Racing

IRL Team reports for the 2009 IRL season

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Postby mlittle » Sat Aug 01, 2009 12:29 am

COMING TO KENTUCKY
It may be the first visit to Kentucky Speedway for Luczo Dragon Racing, but Raphael Matos will be making his second appearance on the track. Matos captured the pole and finished sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights race in Sparta last year. Luczo Dragon hopes to improve its fortunes on the oval track, the seventh of the season. In six previous ovals, LDR has performed well on the short ovals, finishing sixth in Milwaukee and eighth in Richmond, but has struggled on the bigger ovals. Matos scored 18 points with a 12th place finish in Texas, a track he compares to Kentucky.

EDMONTON RECAP
It will show up as 18th in the official standings, but the Marines Luczo Dragon team had a much better car than the back of the pack finish it received in Edmonton. The fact that it turned out one of the three fastest racecars on the track Sunday makes the hard luck hit it took from behind at the start of the race that much more unfortunate. After starting eighth Raphael Matos found himself dead last before completing the first turn when Mike Conway clipped the right rear end of the #2 car and sent it spinning and in need of a new right rear suspension. It was one of the few incidents in a race that saw only one full course yellow on the final lap of the race. After returning to the race 10 laps down, Matos unveiled a performance that was leaderboard worthy. Matos recorded the fourth fastest lap time of the race and third fastest on black tires. His 62.71 trailed only Conway's 62.43, Will Power's 62.66 and Helio Castroneves' 62.70. Conway's lap came on red tires. Matos also made more passes than any driver in the race.

RAFA'S LEARNING EXPERIENCE
"The Edmonton incident was really a shame because once the team fixed the suspension the car was great. We were definitely one of the fastest cars on the track, but there's nothing you can do about it. As disappointing as it is, the important thing for me is that I learned a lot there. I passed a lot of cars, my engineers say I made the most passes in the race and it's important for me as a rookie to gain that kind of experience. As a team we just need to keep our heads up because we did a lot of great things in Edmonton, which will make us even stronger there next year."

ROOKIE RACE
Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are in the midst of a seesaw race for Rookie of the Year honors, a race that has changed hands four times now, including twice in the last three races. The contact-induced spin and suspension issue at the start in Edmonton not only spoiled a potential top five finish and point windfall for Matos, it also dropped the confident rookie three points behind Doornbos in the standings. Matos had taken over the lead for the second time with a 10th place finish in Toronto, but now finds himself trailing 197-194. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. They have flip flopped the lead each of the last three races. Matos' biggest lead has been seven points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11. They have twice been separated by just one point.

RAFA'S KENTUCKY SCOUTING REPORT
"Kentucky is a completely different approach than the last couple races. I feel we have made some progress on super speedways and hopefully we'll be able to carry that over. It's a traditional 1½ speedway, quite similar to Texas with a little less banking and little slower. It's also a little bumpier than Texas."

RAFA ON TRANSITIONING FROM STREET TO OVAL
"The team has made some good progress with the car on super speedways. It will just take time and effort to develop the car. It's no secret, all of the other teams are a little bit ahead of us because they've had more time with their cars, but we're catching up because we have a good team."

RAFA'S OVAL FILM STUDY
"I try to watch a lot of on board videos on YouTube to pick up on mistakes and drivers lines and little things that can help me in the race. I raced there last year in Indy Lights so I feel comfortable there. I will just take the same approach I have with the other ovals."

AIR FORCE CAR #Luczo Dragon Racing will put the Blue and Silver Air Force car back on the track in Kentucky. They have run the Marines car in the last five races and will have it again in Mid-Ohio and Sonoma. LDR will bring the Air Force car to the final three races in Chicago, Japan and Miami.

AT HOME ON THE ROAD
All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road and street courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road and street courses 15 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and 10 top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 16 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. He qualified ninth in Toronto and eighth in Edmonton. If you add in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series, Matos had qualified top 10 in 22 consecutive road course races. He also added six wins, 11 top fives and finished top 10 in all 12 Atlantic races.
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Postby mlittle » Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:12 am

RETURN TO MID OHIO

Mid Ohio is a very familiar track for Raphael Matos. The Luczo Dragon rookie has raced there six times and has claimed three victories in three different series - once in Formula Dodge, once in Star Mazda and once in Indy Lights. He will try to add an IndyCar win to his collection this week. Matos went wire to wire in the first of two Firestone Indy Lights races there last year. He captured the pole and led all 40 laps in securing his third win of the season. The second race was marred by rain and Matos, who started fourth, crashed late to finish 18th.

MID OHIO TEST

Immediately following the race in Toronto, the Luczo Dragon Racing team made the drive to Lexington, OH to join Scott Dixon
, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh and Marco Andretti in a testing session at Mid Ohio. With no previous experience on the track, LDR used the 57 laps they turned to generate a baseline set up for the car entering the race this week.

KENTUCKY RECAP

Weather may have played tricks on the schedule, but in the end Kentucky proved to be one of the most exciting races of the season. Slowed by only one caution flag, the race was the second fastest in series history, with an average speed of 200.893 mph and produced the 11th closest finish ever. Raphael Matos started 13th and finished 16th. He was hampered by two incidents - one on the opening lap when the car got loose and nearly sideways, costing him 10 positions, and the other on a penalty coming into the pits from turn 3 on lap 122, which dropped him from 14th to 16th. With just two points separating 13th and 16th in the overall IndyCar driver standings, the penalty ultimately cost Matos two points and three pit positions as he fell from 13th to 16th in the standings. He is two points back of Ryan Hunter-Reay for 13th and one point behind both Will Power and Robert Doornbos.

CHANGE IS GOOD

Count Raphael Matos as one driver who liked the push to pass and aerodynamic changes to the cars in Kentucky. "I really liked the changes, they reduced drag and created some side by side action and allowed us to pass people. The push to pass button helped me overtake some cars and I was able to use it to protect myself when other cars tried to attack. It was especially helpful early in the race when I got loose and fell to last. I used it to recover and it helped me get back into a rhythm."

RAFA'S LEARNING EXPERIENCE

"We weren't as strong as we would have liked to have been, but Kentucky was still a good experience for me and the team. I was able to get more experience running in the pack, running side by side and collecting data for the team and since we're new to this that data is very important for us."

ROOKIE RACE

For the third time this season, Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos are separated by just one point in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors. Matos finished two spots ahead of Doornbos in Kentucky to narrow the points gap to 209-208. It is a battle that has changed hands four times now, including twice in the last four races. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. Matos' biggest lead has been seven points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11.

RAFA'S MID OHIO SCOUTING REPORT

"Mid Ohio is a very technical and very challenging track. There are fast corners, slow corners, long steady corners and long straightaways. You have to understand and adjust throughout the race. Some of the corners have concrete patches, which can be very slippery, especially early on in the weekend. It's not easy to push the car there throughout the track because it is quite technical and physical. I have had a lot of success there and I'm excited to be back."

LDR PIT CREW ASSIGNMENTS

Race strategist - Jay Penske; Engineer - Eric Zeto; Engineer/Fuel data - Brian Page; Data engineer/Fuel deadman - Daniel Louks; Chief Mechanic/outside front - John Piccinotti; Inside front - Simon Morley; Outside rear - Josh Junge; Inside rear - Tim White; Jackman - Pete Bloathner; Fueler - Rick Campbell; Front tire pass - Jason Hurless; Rear tire pass - Scott Simpson; Stop Sign - John Cummiskey; Front hose pull - Darren Newport

2010 SCHEDULE

As one might guess, Raphael Matos was happy to learn that the IndyCar series would open its 2010 schedule with a race in his native Brazil. "I am very excited and I think it's a big opportunity for the league to explore the Brazilian market. There is a big fan base in Brazil, they love racing. They know all about Formula One and IndyCar. You will see a lot of excitement. Brazilian people have a lot of energy and I think it's going to be a very special event."

TOP 10 LIST

While Raphael Matos recorded his fourth top 10 finish of the season with an 10th place finish in Toronto, it was the fifth top 10 in team history. The most ever top 10s by a rookie was 10 by Felipe Giaffone in 2001. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Hideki Mutoh had eight top 10s.

AT HOME ON THE ROAD

All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road and street courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road and street courses 15 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and 10 top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 16 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. He qualified ninth in Toronto and eighth in Edmonton. If you add in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series, Matos had qualified top 10 in 22 consecutive road course races. He also added six wins, 11 top fives and finished top 10 in all 12 Atlantic races.

ROOKIE RAFA

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).

CHARITY DRIVE

By partnering with champion athletes each year, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. In 2009, they have added Shaquille O'Neal to their team of champions. "We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," Steve Luczo said. "Shaq has demonstrated that leadership, competitiveness, winning and compassion can all be achieved at the same time. As one of the most recognized Champions in sports, and as a positive role model through his many community and social efforts, Shaq is the ideal individual to help Luczo Dragon Racing further its success. On top of that, his father is a military veteran, which is particularly relevant to our expanded mission of supporting wounded and fallen soldiers and their families."

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 wounded and fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Jay Penske and Luczo 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.
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Postby mlittle » Sun Aug 30, 2009 5:57 am

RETURN TO CHICAGOLAND

Luczo Dragon Racing and Raphael Matos will each be making their second appearances at the Chicagoland Speedway. Matos' initial visit was much more memorable than his team's debut a year ago. Matos started on pole, led for 66 laps and finished third to claim the Firestone Indy Lights crown in 2008. Later that same day, Luczo Dragon closed its season with a 26th place finish. Tomas Scheckter qualified seventh but debris from a Vitor Meira crash damaged the car and ended the team's day after 87 laps.

28 ON THE 28TH

Raphael Matos will celebrate his 28th birthday at the track with his racing family on Friday, August 28. Last week while in Brazil visiting his family, his mother put together a surprise party with some of his closest friends in Belo Horizonte. The invitation list went as deep as his first Go Kart mechanic.

RAFA'S CHICAGOLAND SCOUTING REPORT

"I have a lot of good memories of the track because I won the Indy Lights Championship there. The car needs to be fast in qualifying because it is very tough to pass. Everybody races in one big pack pushing each other at 200 plus miles an hour. It's quite bumpy on higher lines. Sometimes you see 4 wide even with the Indy cars. I would say respect for the driver you are battling with is the most important thing."

RECOMMENDED READING

Count Raphael Matos as an avid reader. On airplane rides during the IndyCar season Matos has been known to devour novels in one sitting. Most recently he finished Garth Stein's book The Art of Racing in the Rain. "It was very spiritual and I felt like I had experienced many of the same things like racing at Dayton and serving as a driving coach. I own a lab named Sofia too. I felt a real connection, I couldn't put it down." He is now reading The Shack by William P. Young.

PINK RIBBON

The Luczo Dragon Racing team has added a pink ribbon to the car in support of Raphael Matos' mother, Maria Clorinda, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May. Following the two day test in Sonoma, Matos flew to Brazil to spend the off week with his mother as she completed her third round of chemotherapy.

SONOMA RECAP

Undaunted by his 18th starting position on a difficult passing track, Raphael Matos avoided trouble, received great pit stop support from the Luczo Dragon Marines crew and climbed a season best nine spots to finish ninth at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. It was Matos' second consecutive top 10 finish and sixth of the season and increased his lead in the Rookie of the Year standings to seven points over Robert Doornbos. Matos had a chance to finish seventh but lost two spots on a mis-shift in turn 11 on the final lap, allowing Justin Wilson and Tony Kanaan to squeeze by. Matos had lost his telemetry system and push to pass capability with seven laps to go.

ROOKIE RACE

Raphael Matos increased his lead by two points in the Rookie of the Year race with his second consecutive ninth place finish and 22-point haul. Matos held the lead for back-to-back weeks for the first time since weeks 7 and 8 (Iowa and Richmond). Matos' seven-point edge (252-245) over Robert Doornbos matches his biggest lead of the season. The back and forth race has changed hands five times now. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. Matos' biggest lead has been seven points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11. They have been separated by just one point three times. While it has been a two-way race for most of the season, Mike Conway's third place finish in Sonoma has narrowed his gap to 22 points.

TOP 10 LIST

While Raphael Matos recorded his sixth top 10 finish of the season with a ninth place finish in Sonoma, it was the seventh top 10 in team history. It was also the first back-to-back top 10 effort in team history. The most ever top 10s by a rookie was 10 by Felipe Giaffone in 2001. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Hideki Mutoh had eight top 10s. Matos will need to reach the top 10 in the final three races to surpass Mutoh's mark.

AT HOME ON THE ROAD

All it takes is a look at the statistics to see that Raphael Matos has proven to be a very strong driver on road and street courses. During his time in the IRL, Matos has raced on road and street courses 17 times, including 11 in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and has registered five victories and 12 top 10 finishes. His qualifying record is also impressive and includes three poles, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 17 tries. Until qualifying a career-low 18th at Watkins Glen, Matos had run off 10 consecutive top 10 starting positions, including eighth in St. Petersburg and third at Long Beach this season. He qualified ninth in Toronto and eighth in Edmonton. If you add in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series, Matos had qualified top 10 in 22 consecutive road course races. He also added six wins, 11 top fives and finished top 10 in all 12 Atlantic races.

ROOKIE RAFA

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).

CHARITY DRIVE

By partnering with champion athletes each year, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. In 2009, they have added Shaquille O'Neal to their team of champions. "We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," Steve Luczo said. "Shaq has demonstrated that leadership, competitiveness, winning and compassion can all be achieved at the same time. As one of the most recognized Champions in sports, and as a positive role model through his many community and social efforts, Shaq is the ideal individual to help Luczo Dragon Racing further its success. On top of that, his father is a military veteran, which is particularly relevant to our expanded mission of supporting wounded and fallen soldiers and their families."

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 wounded and fallen heroes and their families. The LDR community development program was designed by team co-owners Jay Penske and Luczo 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.

2010 SCHEDULE

As one might guess, Raphael Matos was happy to learn that the IndyCar series would open its 2010 schedule with a race in his native Brazil. "I am very excited and I think it's a big opportunity for the league to explore the Brazilian market. There is a big fan base in Brazil, they love racing. They know all about Formula One and IndyCar. You will see a lot of excitement. Brazilian people have a lot of energy and I think it's going to be a very special event."
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Postby mlittle » Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:30 am

FOREIGN TERRITORY
As a rookie in the IndyCar Series, Raphael Matos has experienced many firsts in 2009, but the race in Japan offers the Brazilian's most foreign track experience of the season. Twin Ring Motegi is the only track on the schedule that Matos has not driven on either in a test or a previous race. He will arrive in Japan with some momentum as the Luczo Dragon team has delivered three consecutive top 10 finishes, including a ninth place finish in Chicagoland.

VIRTUAL PRACTICE
While Raphael Matos has not physically been on the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, he has some experience on the track thanks to modern technology. Matos has used the GT3 video game on PlayStation 3 over the last two weeks to try to gain some familiarity with the Motegi track. "It gives you a real layout of the track with all the angles so it's been very helpful to me. I have a little better idea of what to expect when I finally get there."

RAFA'S MOTEGI SCOUTING REPORT
"The new aero package will make the racing very exciting in Japan. I haven't been there but have been told by the other drivers that it is a tough track with two completely different corners. One is a wide and fast corner and the other is tight with high elevation. It should be very challenging, but very fun."

WORLD TRAVELER
While Raphael Matos has been to many countries during his 28 years, he has never been to Japan. However, having been to A1 GP races in China, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia with Team Brazil he does expect some familiar turbulence in the first day or two. "Jet lag will be tough the first two days. You feel tired, especially at the end of the day those first couple days. I have always woken up too early and very hungry because my body tells me it's lunchtime at 2 am. But with a little FRS and some rest I'll get through it."

JAPANESE EXPERIENCE
"I am really excited about this trip. I have always wanted to go to Japan and learn more about Japanese culture. The best part is I get to experience it while doing what I love to do the most and that's racing IndyCar. Tokyo is a unique city and I'm really looking forward to checking out downtown. The Honda museum at the track will be interesting to see also."

CHICAGOLAND RECAP
In one of the most dramatic races of the season, one that featured 18 lead changes and plenty of side-by-side racing, Raphael Matos recorded his third consecutive top 10 finish by crossing the line ninth at Chicagoland Speedway. After a weak qualifying run on Friday, Matos started 17th, but predicted that he would have a much better racecar. He was right. The Brazilian rookie, buoyed by strong pit stop performances from the Luczo Dragon crew, climbed as many as 13 positions to fourth place with just two laps left. A close encounter with Graham Rahal leading up to the final lap caused Matos to lift allowing four others to slip by on the final lap.

MR. IMPROVEMENT
As a rookie, Raphael Matos has often talked about his learning experiences after races this season. If there's one thing he has shown he has learned it's the ability to climb from the back of the pack. Over the last three races, Matos has had an average starting position of 16.7 and has finished ninth in all three races. He has improved a combined 23 positions in those races to top all drivers. Ed Carpenter is second with 19 positions and Oriol Servia is third at 16. Matos has averaged a 7.6 position improvement in the three races. Mario Moraes has the second highest average at 7.5 during the three races. He missed the Mid Ohio race.

DOWNS TIME
With three weeks between the race in Joliet, IL and the race in Japan, Raphael Matos has had some down time or in his case Downs time would be more accurate. Matos has started training with Ed Downs, a certified personal trainer, who has worked with many world-class athletes, including NBA stars Carlos Boozer, Baron Davis and Alonzo Mourning. The two will train together three times a week and will focus on strengthen the core and shoulders. "Ed is still figuring out my body, but we will concentrate on building my strength and flexibility. I need to improve my strength in the car."

ROOKIE RACE
Raphael Matos increased his lead to a season-best 17 points in the Rookie of the Year race with his third consecutive ninth place finish and 22-point haul. The three top 10 finishes in a row has allowed Matos to wrest control of what has been a seesaw battle with Robert Doornbos. The back and forth race has changed hands five times. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. Matos' biggest lead is now 17 points and Doornbos has led by as many as 11. They have been separated by just one point three times. Mike Conway is 40 points back.

ROLLING 7
Three consecutive ninth place finishes gives Raphael Matos 64 points in the last three races. Matos ranks seventh in points since the streak began in Mid Ohio. The only IndyCar Series drivers with more points during the last three races are Ryan Briscoe (134), Dario Franchitti (120), Scott Dixon (109), Hideki Mutoh (72), Mario Moraes (67) and Graham Rahal (66).

TOP 10 LIST
While Raphael Matos recorded his seventh top 10 finish of the season with a ninth place finish in Chicagoland, it was the eighth top 10 in team history. Matos is now tied for 10th in the series for most top 10s this season and has posted four on road/street courses and three on ovals. The most ever top 10s by a rookie was 10 by Felipe Giaffone in 2001. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Hideki Mutoh had eight top 10s. Matos will need to reach the top 10 in the final two races to surpass Mutoh's mark.
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Postby mlittle » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:32 am

SEASON FINALE

When Raphael Matos arrived in the United States in 2002 to begin his racing career he settled in Miami and dreamed of making it to the IndyCar Series one day. Fast-forward seven years and, fittingly, Matos completes his rookie campaign as an IndyCar driver in the place where he got his start - Miami. Homestead-Miami Speedway will host the 2009 IndyCar finale and Matos will look to secure Rookie of the Year honors in his hometown. The 28-year old Matos has raced once in Homestead, starting on pole and finishing eighth in last year's Firestone Indy Lights season opener.

ROOKIE RACE

Raphael Matos increased his lead to a season-best 25 points in the Rookie of the Year race with his fourth consecutive ninth place finish and 22- point haul in Japan. Now Matos is in prime position to claim his third Rookie of the Year award in his fifth American racing series. Matos was the top rookie in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Series in 2002 and Firestone Indy Lights in 2007. The four consecutive top 10 IndyCar finishes has allowed Matos to wrest control of what had been a seesaw battle with Robert Doornbos. The back and forth race changed hands five times prior to the late surge by Luczo Dragon. Doornbos led the first four weeks before Matos took over the following four weeks. They have been separated by just one point three times. With a 25-point lead Doornbos would need a spectacular finish and major Luczo Dragon collapse to upset Matos. Doornbos will need to win or finish second at Homestead and have Matos finish in the back of the pack in order to make up the point spread.

ONE OF TWO

Raphael Matos' steady improvement throughout his rookie campaign has allowed him to record four consecutive top 10 finishes, joining Dario Franchitti as the only two drivers to have top 10 finishes in each of the last four races. Mario Moraes has three consecutive top 5s, but missed the Mid Ohio race. Oriol Servia also has three in a row after finishing 11th in Ohio.

BATTLE FOR 12TH

Aside from locking up the Rookie of the Year race, Raphael Matos' other focus heading into Homestead will be trying to climb up one more spot in the point standings. Matos enters the race in 13th place just seven points behind Ed Carpenter. However, overtaking Carpenter will be no easy task given Carpenter's success on ovals this season. He has posted six top 10 finishes in the nine oval events in 2009 and has finished in front of Matos in all but three of the oval races. Matos has four top 10s on ovals, including two in a row (Chicagoland and Motegi). In the three oval races Matos did finish ahead of Carpenter (Milwaukee, Richmond, Motegi) he made up 14, 7 and 5 points respectively.

HOMESTEAD TEST

The Luczo Dragon Racing team was one of seven cars to practice at Homestead last week. Raphael Matos joined Justin Wilson, Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Sarah Fisher, Mario Moraes and Alex Lloyd for the test session. Matos turned 119 laps and finished with a top lap time of 25.34. Wilson recorded the fastest time at 25.25.

RAFA'S HOMESTEAD SCOUTING REPORT

"Homestead is a difficult place because the layout is challenging and the conditions change a lot throughout the day. There's not a lot of banking so the cars have less grip and there's less side-by-side racing. The corners are very long so you're pushing a lot and can get loose. Balance is very important at Homestead. It's tough to gain time there but it's easy to lose time if you don't have good balance in the car."

MOTEGI RECAP

Raphael Matos recorded his fourth consecutive top 10 finish and eighth of the year with a ninth place finish for the Air Force Luczo Dragon team in Japan. Matos started 12th and climbed as high as fourth with just under 70 laps left in the race. He remained in the top six until a full course yellow dropped just after his final pit stop with 46 laps left allowing Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Mario Moraes to benefit from fortunate timing. Matos was ninth after the restart and remained there until the end. He was the final car to finish on the lead lap. Matos collected 22 points and increased his lead in the Rookie of the Year standings to 25 over Robert Doornbos heading into the final race of the season.

MR. IMPROVEMENT

As a rookie, Raphael Matos has often talked about his learning experiences after races this season. If there's one thing he has shown he has learned it's the ability to climb from the back of the pack. Over the last four races, Matos has had an average starting position of 15.5 and has finished ninth in all four races. He has improved a combined 26 positions in those races to top all drivers. Matos has averaged a 6.5 position improvement in the four races.

STRONG FINISH

Four consecutive ninth place finishes gives Raphael Matos 86 points in the last four races. Matos ranks eighth in points since the streak began in Mid Ohio. The only IndyCar Series drivers with more points during the last four races are Scott Dixon (162), Dario Franchitti (160), Ryan Briscoe (146), Graham Rahal (101), Mario Moraes (97), Marco Andretti (89) and Hideki Mutoh (88).

TOP 10 LIST

Raphael Matos recorded his eighth top 10 finish of the season with a ninth place finish in Japan. Matos is now 10th in the series for most top 10s this season and has posted four on road/street courses and four on ovals. The most ever top 10s by a rookie was 10 by Felipe Giaffone in 2001, followed by Dan Wheldon's nine in 2003. If he can notch a top 10 in the season finale at Homestead, Matos will tie Wheldon for second most top 10s by a rookie in a single season. Luczo Dragon Racing now has nine top 10 finishes in team history.

DOWNS TIME

Raphael Matos has started training with Ed Downs, a certified personal trainer, who has worked with many world-class athletes, including NBA stars Carlos Boozer, Baron Davis and Alonzo Mourning. The two will train together three times a week and will focus on strengthen the core and shoulders. "Ed is still figuring out my body, but we will concentrate on building my strength and flexibility. I need to improve my strength in the car."

CHARITY DRIVE

By partnering with champion athletes each year, Luczo Dragon Racing has established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations Worldwide. In 2009, they have added Shaquille O'Neal to their team of champions and expect to deliver more than $500,000 to organizations that benefit education, military veterans and the environment. "We are proud to have Shaquille O'Neal join our team of champions," Steve Luczo said. "Shaq has demonstrated that leadership, competitiveness, winning and compassion can all be achieved at the same time. As one of the most recognized Champions in sports, and as a positive role model through his many community and social efforts, Shaq is the ideal individual to help Luczo Dragon Racing further its success. On top of that, his father is a military veteran, which is particularly relevant to our expanded mission of supporting wounded and fallen soldiers and their families."
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