A.J. Foyt Enterprises have confirmed that Matheus Leist will drive their #4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. The 19-year-old Brazilian driver, who took part in the Indy Lights series this year with Carlin, will partner veteran driver and fellow countryman Tony Kanaan, who is also running in his first year with Foyt having moved from Chip Ganassi Racing.
“This is a special moment in my career and I’m so grateful for the things that are happening,” said Leist, “Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I’ll be driving for the legend A.J. Foyt. Having Tony Kanaan as my teammate is incredible because he’s been an idol for me since I was a child. Tony and I are from different generations but I can’t wait to be with him at the track and learn as much as I can from him. It will be a pleasure.”
“I’m so thankful for the opportunities that I had so far and for the big moments that I lived. Every day I keep telling myself that I couldn’t have made a better decision than to come to the USA at the end of 2016. America is where things happen and where the good drivers have a proper place. The IndyCar Series is one of the best categories in the world and has the most important race in the world. The championship is amazing with its combination of road courses, street courses and ovals. It’s a series where all the teams are capable of doing a great job. I’ve dreamed about racing in this series and I can’t wait for this dream to come true.”
Leist began karting in 2009 and graduated to single-seater racing five years later when he made his debut in the 2014 Brazilian Formula Three championship. The following year, Leist moved from his home-country to race in the United Kingdom, starting with a full campaign in the MSA Formula championship. He would take two victories in that championship before graduating to British Formula Three for 2016. Following a season-long battle with Ricky Collard, Leist would take the British F3 championship with four wins to his name.
For this year, Leist made the move back over the Atlantic to race in the 2017 Indy Lights series. Despite having never raced on an oval, Leist would earn his first win in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. He would follow up his first oval win with a road course win in the next race at Road Atlanta, before taking another oval victory at Iowa later in the season. He would end the season in fourth place in the standings; with his efforts throughout the year attracting the attention of IndyCar teams including A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
“I wanted a fresh start for 2018,” said team owner A.J. Foyt, “I think the combination of an experienced driver like Tony and a hungry young driver like Matt will work. I watched him in the Indy Lights this year and he won at Indy. I know he’s got a lot to learn but I think he’s going to learn very quickly and I think he’ll be very good in the Indy cars.”
Leist is expected to make his debut in the 2018 #4 A.J. Foyt Chevrolet in several pre-season tests at Sebring in January. He will make his race debut in the opening round of the season at St Petersburg on March 11th.