Brazil’s Matheus Leist will complete A.J. Foyt Racing’s Chevy-powered Verizon IndyCar Series roster.
As RACER first predicted in October, the teenager is set to join countryman Tony Kanaan as the Foyts look to move farther up the grid in 2018. Winner of the 2016 British Formula 3 championship, and a three-time race winner in Indy Lights for Carlin Racing, the Mazda Road To Indy graduate will have IndyCar’s most experienced driver to learn from during his rookie campaign.
Foyt, the legendary four-time Indy 500 winner, has high expectations for the 19-year-old and, far from a surprise, Leist’s first name has already been Americanized by Super Tex.
“I think the combination of an experienced driver like Tony and a hungry young driver like ‘Matt’ will work,” he said. “I watched him in the Indy Lights this year and he won at Indy [the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race]. I know he’s got a lot to learn but I think he’s going to learn very quick and I think he’ll be very good in the Indy cars.”
“We had to make some tough decisions but we made them with a focus on strengthening the overall program,” added team president Larry Foyt (pictured above with Leist, at left, and Kanaan). “We are positioning ourselves to be contenders next season. The added testing and development we are undergoing, combined with the new aero kit for all of the competition should help our overall competitiveness and consistency. We think Matheus is going to be a really good fit with Tony Kanaan because Matheus has a lot of talent and he is going to learn a lot from Tony.”
Foyt’s all-Brazilian line-up represents the third complete driver overhaul since 2015. Although the move for the highly patriotic team might seem odd, Foyt’s open-wheel operation has fielded international drivers for decades. Kanaan and Leist become Foyt’s fifth and sixth Brazilian drivers, following Marco Greco (1996), Airton Dare (2002-’03), Felip Giaffone (2005-’06) and Vitor Meira (2009-’11).
The team’s last Indy 500 win came in 1999 with Sweden’s Kenny Brack, and its most recent victory was delivered by Japan’s Takuma Sato at Long Beach in 2013.