Raphael Matos has sealed a late deal to return to the IZOD IndyCar Series with his former Indy Lights team AFS Racing.
The Brazilian lost his seat with De Ferran Dragon Racing, where he had spent the first two years of his IndyCar career, last winter, with the team initially dropping him for Tony Kanaan before ultimately closing its doors. However, Matos has been thrown a lifeline by Gary Peterson's AFS team, which is graduating to IndyCar as an independent operation for the first time after being an occasional co-entrant with Andretti Autosport in the past. Matos won the 2008 Lights title in an AFS Andretti car.
"I would like to thank Gary Peterson for giving me another opportunity to drive for him," said Matos. "We had great success in the past. Winning the Firestone Indy Lights championship was the first championship for AFS Racing, so there's some great memories from that time.
"To have Gary believing in me now, as he brings his team into IndyCars, is huge for my career and a fabulous sign of his confidence in me. I lost my ride with De Ferran Dragon Racing and my father on the same day. My father was my biggest supporter and I promised myself that from that day on, I was racing for me and for him. I have to say that was a very emotional time for me and still is."
Matos won titles in Skip Barber, Star Mazda and the Atlantic series before his Lights success, so is confident he deserves another shot at IndyCar even though his first two years at the top level did not live up to expectations.
"I'm the only driver in the league who has won every step of the ladder system to get to IndyCars," Matos said. "I feel that I deserve to be here."
Peterson felt linking up with Matos again was an ideal start to AFS' IndyCar program.
"This is our first entry as a standalone IndyCar team and I'm glad to be reuniting AFS and Rafa," said Peterson. "He's a great driver who has proven himself by working up through the ranks of the ladder series, which I respect."