TORONTO – For years Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have been the Brazilian “torch carriers” in the Verizon IndyCar Series and there hasn’t really been that next top-Brazilian-driver-in-waiting set to carry the torch after either driver may move on down the road.
One who was well positioned for that a number of years ago was Brazilian talent Raphael “Rafa” Matos, who won the 2007 Formula Atlantic and 2008 Indy Lights titles before moving into the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2009, driving with the Dragon Racing team for two years.
Matos then did a partial season with AFS Racing in 2011 but hasn’t been in IndyCar since, instead having raced stock cars in Brazil.
His presence here this weekend shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t forget about him.
The 34-year-old Brazilian is making the rounds in the Honda Indy Toronto paddock this weekend, coaching Cameron Das of JAY Motorsports in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series (Das is a 16-year-old rookie out of Baltimore) and hoping to reinstall himself as a member of the IndyCar paddock.
“Yeah, I’m here coaching this 16-year-old this weekend,” Matos told NBC Sports. “It came up last minute and we only met this weekend.
“But being here really ignites the passion, seeing old friends and familiar faces. It makes me hungry for a comeback.”
In 38 career starts, Matos has a best finish of fourth on two occasions and was also 13th and 14th in the points in 2009 and 2010.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).
It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).
Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.
The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.
“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”
“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”