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Festa 6th as Matos provides Guthrie Racing with second consecutive victory

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Raphael Matos won from the pole position on the streets of St. Petersburg by 0.5075 of a second on April 1. Starting sixth in the second race of an Indy Pro Series doubleheader weekend, Matos made it look easier.

The 2005 Star Mazda series champion passed Jay Howard for the lead in Turn 1 of Lap 8 and held on for a 5.7206-second victory over Howard on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course. Alex Lloyd, who started 10th, finished third in the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinkler, Inc. car. Jeff Simmons, runner-up in the first race, finished fourth in the No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing car.

“It’s been like a dream come true for me,” said Matos, who gave team owner Jim Guthrie his second victory in three Indy Pro Series events. “Everything was perfect this race. Unfortunately, I made some mistakes yesterday, especially on the restart. Today, I had everything sorted out. I was able to study a little bit on what Jay Howard would do on the restart. So I tried different lines on every restart and I was able to get into the position to win again.”

Howard, who astutely noted Matos’ speed in the first race, said the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team made significant changes between the 18 hours between races in an attempt to secure more speed.

“He was fast,” said Howard, the 2005 U.S. Formula Ford Zetec champion and rookie of the year. “But my team has done a great job this weekend.  Even with a full-course yellow with one or two laps to go, I would have been struggling. I'm pleased, so I have to say thanks to everyone again. We'll see what's next in Indianapolis (May 26 in the Freedom 100).

 

The top six finishers from the first race werei nverted for the start of the second 40-lap race. Chris Festa started from the pole position. By the fourth lap, Matos was in the hunt for the lead.

Matos, driving the No. 41 Guthrie Racing/car Crafters car, tied Mark Taylor as winners in their first two series starts.

Lloyd and Howard jockeyed the final two laps, with Lloyd unable to make the pass and gain second place. He also had to defend his position. The 2003 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award winner started on the front row in the first race.

“Well, it was a good race,” said Lloyd, who said the prospects for continuing in the car for the remainder of the season are promising. “I had nothing to lose. Yesterday was disappointing because we qualified well. The boys did a few adjustments to the car today, and it was very good.

“Going through the first half of the race, it was great. I managed to work my way through the field. I had a good run. After that it was just difficult. Jay had a little more speed than me, but I think there was a bit more wing. When you’re running that close to someone that long, it’s very tough. We had Jeff Simmons behind me at the end. It’s difficult being in the middle. You want to attack, but at the same time you have to defend. I'm very happy to be on the podium.

“It’s great for the team. This is our first run together. We only met last weekend. Hopefully we can be together the rest of the season, stay on the podium and get a few wins.”