Those who regretted Vitor Meira being left as the odd man out in the Dario Franchitti-Dan Wheldon reshuffle as Ganassi and Panther can rest easy after the likeable Brazilian landed a seat to ensure that he remains in the IndyCar Series for 2009
However, fans of Darren Manning now have reason to worry after the Briton was moved aside to make room for Meira at AJ Foyt Enterprises.
The Brazilian, who is nearing 100 races without a victory in the IndyCar Series, has signed to drive the #14 ABC Supply Co Dallara-Honda next season, with an option for 2010. Like Franchitti and Wheldon, he'll get a jump-start on the 2009 season by competing in the non-championship Nikon Indy 300 on the streets of Surfer's Paradise next month, while Manning ponders his options.
“I am definitely going into 2009 with a little extra motivation,” said Meira, who competed for Panther Racing for the past three seasons before being ousted as sponsorship issues left him on the outside as Wheldon returned, “I have raced against the team for many years and have heard cool things about them. Many people would give an arm and a leg just to meet AJ and I am getting to work with him.
“This first race, we'll get situated with each other and we'll quickly learn where we're at, then we can know where to go -- what we need to maintain and where we need to improve. My goal is to come out and win, and by that I mean to give 100 per cent - no matter what is happening.”
In 17 starts this season, both Meira and Manning recorded seven top ten finishes, with highs of second at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen respectively, but the Brazilian has been a consistent frontrunner, despite still looking for his first victory after 93 races with three different teams over the years.
Although not able to compete with the likes of Ganassi, Penske or Andretti Green in recent seasons, Foyt's IndyCar record as a team owner includes winning the 1999 Indianapolis 500 with Kenny Brack and the 1996 and '98 series championships with Scott Sharp and Brack respectively. Sharp, Brack, Billy Boat and Airton Dare all won their first IndyCar Series races in a Foyt car, something that Meira will hope to emulate.
“I've always admired [Meira] because he's a hard racer who charges all day long,” said four-time Indy 500 winner Foyt, “He should have won a lot of races but he hasn't had the best luck. I believe we can change that and I'm looking forward to working with him.”
Team director Larry Foyt will be Meira's race strategist at Surfers Paradise, where they'll have ample time to get to know each other better.
“I'm really excited about this opportunity to work with Vitor,” said Foyt, who negotiated Meira's deal, “We're looking forward to getting him his first win in the IndyCar Series and getting AJ Foyt Racing back into Victory Lane with ABC Supply.”