To no-one's great surprise, Vitor Meira is unlikely to return to the cockpit for the remainder of the 2009 IndyCar Series campaign, following his heavy accident he endured in the closing stages of Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
The confirmation, however, came from the with whom the Brazilian crashed, Luczo Dragon's Raphael Matos, who says that he has spoken with his countryman, both to check on his condition and to clear the air after the impact that sent both into the turn one wall. Meira has been diagnosed with a double lumbar vertebrae fracture and is currently being fitted with a back brace.
"You've probably all seen the crash we had yesterday at the Indy 500," Matos wrote in his regular blog on yardbarker.com
, "I'm very disappointed and feel very bad that we didn't finish. I also feel bad that Vitor got hurt.
"He's my friend and I respect him a lot. I talked to him and his wife last night. My family didn't tell me that he had been taken to the hospital because they knew I would be upset, [but] I called his 'phone later and his wife answered. She was on her way to the hospital and told me [Vitor] was out for the year. That really hurt me. All the preparation we do and he's so dedicated, it's just very unfortunate."
Matos also revealed that the pair had talked the incident over, insisting that he wasn't looking to make up a place into the first turn at the historic 2.5-mile oval.
"When I talked to Vitor, he asked how I was feeling, I told him my knees hurt and I had a headache [and] we talked a little about what happened. I would never try to pass on outside of turn one, not with less than 30 laps [to run] and with all the marbles. I'd never do that. He said he knew we were faster than him - I had passed him on the inside of turn one a little earlier so, this time, he wanted to hold the inside. I had a good run on him and was setting him up to pass him on the back straightaway [but], by the time we crashed, I was off throttle, setting up the car for the back straight."
Matos, in particular, had surpassed expectations in the event, running as high as the top six and, having taken two opportunities to top up his fuel under caution, was hoping to capitalise on the run to the flag. A couple of misjudgements, including the clash of wheels with Meira, were rare blemishes on the day.
"It was really disappointing," Matos admitted, "We had done everything right up to the point of the second-to-last pit-stop. I was trying to make up time and overshot my pit. That was probably my only mistake. The team had worked so hard all month and that is a tough way to end.
"Right now, I'm bummed, but I hope, in a couple of days, I will be able to put it all behind me and get ready for Milwaukee."
The Brazilian's optimism for this weekend's event counters rumours that, like Meira, he had suffered season-ending injuries. Instead, Matos is believed to have escaped the crash with little more than heavy bruising, particularly to his knees, which should have eased by the time he arrives at round five. He has been cleared to drive by IRL medical officials, and should be back in harness with Luczo Dragon at the Milwaukee Mile.
Meira's berth at AJ Foyt Racing, however, remains up for grabs, with various names being touted as his replacement. AJ Foyt IV partnered the Brazilian at Indianapolis, but is not thought to be long-term solution given the fact that he parted company from his grandfather's team in a bid to further his career. Darren Manning drove for the team for the past two years, only to be ousted when Meira became available - the Brazilian having been usurped at Panther Racing by Dan Wheldon for 2009 - and remains without a drive following two early season outings with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. There are also several drivers who had one-race deals at Indianapolis, including Townsend Bell, who finished fourth overall for KVRT, Tomas Scheckter, Alex Lloyd, Nelson Philippe and Oriol Servia.