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Firestone Indy Lights: SunRichGourmet.com 100

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  SunRichGourmet.com 100

Firestone Indy Lights: SunRichGourmet.com 100

Raphael Matos
Gary Peterson
September 7, 2008


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by 2008 Firestone Indy Lights Series champion, Raphael Matos. Three wins, eight top fives, five poles for the year, third today. We're also joined by Gary Peterson, the team owner for Team AFS.
Rafa, talk about your run out there today and the championship.
RAPHAEL MATOS: It was definitely the best run we've had so far in the one-and-a-half-mile ovals all year long. We pretty much came up with the strategy yesterday. The strategy worked out perfect between me and Arie Luyendyk. You know, just great cars, great weekend for us. We had a great feeling coming to this race. We were able to put a great effort together.
I just have to thank AFS, Andretti Green. Everyone in that team deserve this championship just as much as I do. Obviously, Gary, Michael, Kevin, Kim Green, giving me the opportunity. We worked really hard. We all deserve this one.
THE MODERATOR: Gary, talk about the championship from your point of view.
GARY PETERSON: It just means so much. You know, as a driver, I never had a chance to win a championship. I drove the Indy Lights Series for five years till I had an accident. I was too old anyway. Retired. To start working with Rafa, Luyendyk, the rest of them, just great kids. It's so satisfying to be able to bring these guys up. Hopefully they move up to the IRL next year. That's what we want to do.
AGR, Mike, Kevin, Kim, the whole group, just been fantastic to work with. Contrary to all the Robin Miller media stuff, it's a great team. There's harmony. I plan to be with them for a long time. The Indy Lights Series is just a great series. The IRL supporting it. Roger Bailey, the whole thing is exciting, Firestone. I'm just kind of overwhelmed.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either one of our podium.

Q. Rafa, how in the world, after controlling the race right up to the very end, did Arie get by you? What happened? Did you miss a shift?
RAPHAEL MATOS: Yeah, I missed a shift on the restart. He got by me. Unfortunately by the time he was passing me, Bea was just pushing him. I had nowhere to go. I finished third. The best third place in my life I finished. I enjoy racing a lot this race, especially after I saw Richard on the grass. I knew we were the champions. You know, it was just a plan we had and it worked perfectly, to win the championship and Arie win a race.

Q. Gary, as a former driver, now team owner, do you get as big a thrill as an owner of not only winning races but winning the championship? Is it as exciting?
GARY PETERSON: It is now. Towards the end of this run, the last three or fur races, points lead back and forth, I think I finally have figured out why Michael -- I've talked to Michael Andretti many times about how he just sits there, not want to get back in the car.
Now in watching, working with the young guys, everything that's involved, I never realized how much is involved behind it, it's just really gratifying. So I'm happy.

Q. Rafa, it seems like you've proven yourself at this level, at the second tier level. Do you think you're going to get your opportunity at the next level finally?
RAPHAEL MATOS: We'll see. I hope so. Definitely I wanted to prove myself one more time. I felt that last year I dominated the Atlantic Championship. I won the championship. I was supposed to get the $2 million. Never got anything out of that. Was unable to make my deal happen in Champ Car.
With the unification, I had an offer from Andretti Green and AFS to the Indy Lights championship. I felt that was a great opportunity for me, especially because I had no experience in the ovals. I would be in a competitive team, a team that would have a chance to win the championship and prove myself one more time, prove myself and show that I had the speed and the consistency and maturity to be in IndyCar.
You know, AGR, AFS, they've been great to me all year long. I believe it's a win-win situation. They gave me a great opportunity. I was able to deliver it and the championship.
Also, you know, there's so many opportunities with Andretti Green, not only in IndyCar but also on the sports car side. I think there's a great future ahead of us. I'm very excited. I believe everyone in the team is very excited. Let's see what happens in the future. I think we'll celebrate a lot and then we'll talk about everything.

Q. Gary, one of your goals is to own an IndyCar team. Are you closer to that now? Is that possible for next year? Are you looking at your own two drivers, perhaps bringing one of them along?
GARY PETERSON: Yeah, I'm working on it. I'm working on sponsorship. I'm not sure how far along we are yet. As you know, that is my plan. That's the reason I decided to close my race operations and merge with AGR, in order to get the benefit of the engineering, learn behind the scenes.
I'm not sure if it will happen next year. I hope so. If not, it will be the following year.
One thing I wanted to say, something about Rafa. He's done the pre-testing for us at AGR. He's done a fantastic job. He's driving with Tony and everybody else out there, Marco. The testing that he's done has paid off in our results at Watkins Glen, other tracks that we tested. So the whole program that works with the Indy Lights program, the testing that comes with it, the Indy Lights driver gets to drive along with one of the IRL drivers, it's really something I'm pretty excited about. He's done a fantastic job.
You know, he gets the opportunity -- I'd be glad to have him back driving with us, but I'm not sure if we can find the sponsorship. If not, I'll support anything that Rafa does. He's done a great job this year.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations on your season. We appreciate you coming in, spending some time with us.

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