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Photo: A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Matheus Leist confirmed for IndyCar graduation with Foyt

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Brazilian Matheus Leist has been confirmed to step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises in the team’s No. 4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet.

Leist won three races in his maiden season of Indy Lights, the Freedom 100 in Indianapolis, Road America and Iowa, and finished fourth in the championship with Carlin after winning the British F3 title in 2016.

The teenager struggled a bit with inconsistency throughout his first year but he made a decent impression on the series. He also enjoyed his first IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport at Road America in June, driving Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Honda.

Leist joins countryman Tony Kanaan in Foyt’s latest reset lineup, with the team now running its third pair of drivers in as many years. Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth weren’t retained after 2016 and an all-youth gamble on Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly was only exercised for one season, although neither was provided much to help their cause with a litany of changes.

Instead, Foyt and sponsor ABC Supply Co. have an all-Brazilian lineup at their disposal next year. Leist’s first test will come after the new year.

“This is a special moment in my career and I’m so grateful for the things that are happening,” said Leist, who lives outside of Miami in Aventura, Fla. “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 happy to welcome Matheus as a teammate to Foyt and the ABC Racing family,” Kanaan added. “Matheus is an extremely talented driver with a bright future ahead of him. I’m looking forward to working together and help get AJ Foyt Racing to the next level.”

Larry Foyt explained the team changes and upcoming test program, with Kanaan running a manufacturer’s test of the new universal aero kit next month at Sebring International Raceway while Leist is scheduled to test the new car in early January at Sebring. Both Kanaan and Leist will test together there at the end of January.

“We had to make some tough decisions but we made them with a focus on strengthening the overall program,” Foyt said. “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.”