Dillon Battistini rebounded from a tough run of results to win his fourth Firestone Indy Lights race of the season, moving from fourth on the grid to lead most of the way in the 67-lap Kentucky 100.
The Briton maintained his strong oval showings with an early pass for the lead, and led the remaining 65 laps to claim a vital victory that edges him closer to the leaders of the championship, having dropped away in recent weeks. Points leader Richard Antinucci finished fourth in the race, giving him a four-point advantage over Raphael Matos, who finished sixth, while Mid-Ohio winner James Davison finished second to Battistini, ahead of Arie Luyendyk Jr.
“I knew it was going to be hard to pass on this track," Battistini said of the circuit which had seen him test an IndyCar for the first time in the build-up to the weekend, "I knew there was a chance at getting [Matos] at the start, and I pulled that off and was able to hang on. I still had to fight off some really strong competition but, luckily, we were strong enough to stay in the lead and take the win.”
The win vaulted the Panther Racing driver up three spots in the championship standings, where he now shares a tie for third place with Luyendyk, some 57 points adrift of Antinucci, despite having now won more races than any other driver in the series this season.
“It feels good to make up some ground in the standings after the last few races,” the 2007 Asian F3 champion said, “We still have three races to make up points. We are due for a strong showing on a road course, and after that is another oval, so I feel good about our chances to make up some good points.”
Battistini admitted that he thought Matos would prove to be a tougher challenge in the race, after the Brazilian largely dominated practice and qualifying, but the #27 AFS/AGR entry faded to sixth at the flag.
“It was a little bit frustrating, but I was expecting it because my car lost positions on the start," Matos conceded, "The yellow flags kind of made us struggle a little bit, and my car wasn't good on the restarts. It came back to me at the end of the race, and I was able to gain a little bit of ground, and was able to attack, but I just ran out of time.
"But the important thing with this race is that I was able to gain some good points. I finished sixth and Antinucci finished fourth, and the good thing is that I am only four points behind, and there are still plenty of races. We can improve and are real quick on the road courses, and we are still in the fight for the championship.”
Davison, meanwhile, took advantage of Matos' problems to finish second, taking his second consecutive top two finish after his fortuitous win at Mid-Ohio.