Panther Racing driver Dillon Battistini jumped from sixth to third in the Firestone Indy Lights championship standings by scoring his fourth win of the season in the "Kentucky 100" tonight at Kentucky Speedway.

The native of Ewell, England started fourth, seized a race lead he wouldn't surrender from second-place starter Ana Beatriz on Lap 2, safely navigated his way through four race caution periods, hugged the low line in his No. 15 car and held off second-place finisher James Davison at the line by .0814 of a second in the fourth-closest series finish in track history.

"Really, I won that race at the start. My starts have been one of my great strengths this year. I gained three places at the start, which isn't unusual, but on this occasion it won me the race because it's hard to pass here. All I had to do was hold the low line, which is pretty much the quickest way around anyway," Battistini said.

The 67-lap sprint saw several three-wide battles during the final jaunt to checkered flag set up by a Lap 60 restart.

"That wasn't easy; they were all over me like a rash. I was getting constant updates from my spotter, but I had a pretty good idea how close they were because all I could see in my mirrors were cars," Battistini added.

Tonight's victory gives Battistini, who averaged an 18th-place finish in the last five races, renewed hope toward earning his first series championship. He gained 20 points on leader Richard Antinucci, who took his eighth top-five finish of the season with a fourth-place run tonight.

Battistini will stand 57 points behind Antinucci when the drivers start the first of two straight races at Infineon Raceway Aug. 23.

"A top-four, it's very good. I'm very thankful, it was just awesome. The car felt so good, I could go inside, outside. I had the best car, it was just that Davison and Battistini made it hard to get around them. With two cars, it was a two-lane race. I was trying to help James and almost got both of them at one point.

"We've still got the points lead. We're first, it's awesome. I'll just go to Sonoma and look to build on our points lead there. I had a lot of success on that track last year," Antinucci said.

Arie Luyendyk, Jr., snared third and took his third top-five and fifth straight top-10 finish at the track. Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Brent Sherman placed fifth in his Firestone Indy Lights debut at the track.

The race closed out the 2008 Kentucky Speedway season.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

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