Meira signs with A.J. Foyt Racing Teams, manufacturers begin off-season testing Fisher honored as one of Indy’s Best and Brightest IndyCar Series drivers headline karting event
1. Meira signs with A.J. Foyt: Vitor Meira has signed to drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda-powered Dallara for A.J. Foyt Racing in 2009 with an option for 2010. He’ll get a jump-start on the season by competing in the non-points Nikon Indy 300 on the streets of Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, on Oct. 26.
“I am definitely going into 2009 with a little extra motivation,” said Meira, who competed for Panther Racing the past three seasons. “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 A.J. and I am getting to work with him.”
In 17 starts this season, Meira recorded seven top-10 finishes with a high of second in the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Overall, Meira has 56 top-10s and 27 top-fives in 93 starts with three teams and is looking for that first victory. The move displaces Darren Manning, who had seven top-10s with a high of second at Watkins Glen this season.
“I’ve always admired (Meira) because he’s a hard racer who charges all day long,” said Foyt, the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner whose team has competed in the IndyCar Series since its inception. “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.”
As a team owner, Foyt won the 1999 Indianapolis 500 with Kenny Brack and the 1996 and ’98 series championships with Scott Sharp and Brack, respectively. Sharp (1996), Brack (1998), Billy Boat (1998) and Airton Dare (2002) won their first IndyCar Series races in a Foyt car.
“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,” said Meira, 31, who broke into the series at Kentucky Speedway in 2002 in a Team Menard-prepared car. “My goal is to come out and win, and by that I mean to give 100 percent no matter what is happening.”
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 Vitor his first win in the IndyCar Series and getting A.J. Foyt Racing back into Victory Lane with ABC Supply.”
2. Teams, manufacturers begin off-season testing: IndyCar Series teams and manufacturers have begun taking advantage of mild fall weather to test components for the 2009 season. Three teams participated in a test at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 23, and six teams are scheduled to test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sept. 29-30.
"It was a good day for us," said Graham Rahal, who completed 276 laps on the .75-mile Richmond oval. "We made some big strides which will help us get closer to the frontrunners. We ought to have a good baseline setup to battle for the win here when we come back next year. I think our lap times were competitive with Tony's (Kanaan) although it's hard to tell what sort of test program they were working on. It was good to get back on track to test and start working on 2009."
The test at Indianapolis includes Dan Wheldon, who will drive the Panther Racing car for the first time since 2002. Also scheduled to test are 2008 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and Buddy Rice.
3. Fisher honored as one of Indy’s Best and Brightest: IndyCar Series driver and team owner Sarah Fisher was honored Sept. 25 in the Media, Entertainment and Sports category for the fifth Indy's Best and Brightest under 40 Awards.
The seven-time Indianapolis 500 starter and veteran IndyCar Series driver started Sarah Fisher Racing in January, which she said “has been both challenging and motivating.” She competed in three races this season, and is seeking to expand the number of races in ’09.
“I was honored just to be nominated and become a finalist and didn’t expect to win," said Fisher, who turns 28 on Oct. 4. "Being new to the whole entrepreneur thing is challenging for me as I’m use to just doing the driving part of being in auto racing, but we’ve enjoyed our time building Sarah Fisher Racing. For everyone on my team, for all my sponsors and of course, to the fans, thank you for all of your support. The 2009 racing season will be here before we know it.”
The Best and Brightest initiative was created by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana Inc. to recognize up-and-coming talent and the next generation of leaders in the Indianapolis community. Finalists in each of 10 categories were judged on professional accomplishments and leadership qualities.
4. IndyCar Series drivers headline karting event: Seventeen current and past IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers are among those who will compete in the Mazda RoboPong 200 that is scheduled for Sept. 28 on the 1.1-mile course east of Indianapolis that is owned by former IndyCar Series driver Mark Dismore.
The 200-lap endurance event features a $25,000 purse.
“It feels like the Indianapolis 500,” said 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion and five-race IndyCar Series starter Jay Howard. “It’s a big deal to get 100 teams to show up and try and qualify, and it’s cool that so many professional drivers come out. To me, it’s an event that I look forward to all year long. As soon as the race is over, I’ll start thinking about next year right away, just like the Indy 500.”
Howard, who runs the Screaming Talent karting team, will be among the favorites in the event.
“Last year, we qualified on the front row and were leading the race when we had the exhaust break,” said Howard, who owns three British karting titles from his youth. “We ended up fifth, but for sure we would’ve won. Hopefully, this year will be different.”
Other drivers entered in the event include 2008 IndyCar Series drivers John Andretti, Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV, Alex Lloyd, Vitor Meira, Will Power, Tomas Scheckter and Dan Wheldon; past IndyCar Series drivers Dismore, Phil Giebler, Scott Goodyear and Bryan Herta; and Firestone Indy Lights drivers Cyndie Allemann, Logan Gomez and Robbie Pecorari. Team owner Michael Crawford also is entered.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a non-points paying race Oct. 26 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Nikon Indy 300 will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 25 by ESPN Classic and will re-air at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 on ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season has concluded.