Raphael Matos duly wrapped up the Firestone Indy Lights crown in the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, but could not do so with a first oval race win, as Arie Luyendyk Jr finally broke his duck in the IndyCar feeder category.

Matos appeared on course to claim the race win too, but was stymied by a caution with just four laps to run.

The Brazilian led 65 of 67 laps after starting from the pole, but AFS/AGR team-mate Luyendyk Jr - a winless series stalwart through the Indy Pro days - surged past him on a lap 66 restart to lead the identical red-and-yellow machine in a two-lap dash to the flag.

"It was perfect," Luyendyk admitted, "This is a dream scenario - me winning the race and Rafa winning the championship. It's more than words can describe.

"Green, white, chequered is always nerve-wracking, but we got a good restart, thank God, and Rafa and I worked beautifully today. My Firestone tyres held up beautifully, it was amazing. The car was so consistent from lap one to the end. It was just a beautiful weekend."

Matos did not offer much resistance to either Luyendyk or the following Ana Beatriz, having already confirmed a second successive title - following last year's Atlantic success - when sole remaining rival Richard Antinucci crashed out on lap 26.

"It was the best third-place finish of my life," he admitted, "We had a plan today for me to win the championship and Arie to win the race, as he really deserved to win a race this year, and it worked perfectly for us. I'm very happy for him, and I'm really happy for the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing team.

"They told me that Antinucci had trouble - and I told them not to drink the champagne before we finished the race!"

Antinucci saw his dreams of hauling a four-point pre-race deficit disappear after tangling with Sean Guthrie while attempting to make up ground from ninth on the grid.

"I need to see the video, but the #4 car did not hold a consistent line throughout the corner," Antinucci claimed, "We were actually banging wheels up the straight.

"I think he and his team-mate were going through the world final championships on lap 12. I was just trying to hold on to the philosphy of being cool and hanging back. I don't know if the other car had dipped or something. I think I had moved up to sixth on that pass. I was on the outside, and I had the momentum and the tow to pass him, but we banged wheels on the straight, which shocked me. I think he wiggled, washed out, washed up and clipped my rear tyre.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow, losing [the championship] at the last round, but 'ifs' and 'buts' don't take you anywhere so there's no point [talking about them]. I believe we could have potentially been 120 points down the road, but that's not important today. We managed to finish second, and I had a great year overall."

Beatriz finished second, with Bobby Wilson, running with the ex-Dillon Battistini Panther Racing entry for the first time, just missing the podium. James Davison completed the top five.

Beatriz's sixth top five finish of the season was good enough to cement third in the championship.

"It was really hard to pass the AFS guys, as they were really, really fast," she admitted, "They were working together, which was really tough, so I tried to stay behind them.

"When Arie made his move, I was able to stay with him and get that second position, and it was very good to finish on the podium."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment