Vitor Meira will make his 100th start in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsport Park. The Brazilian made his IndyCar debut in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway. He went on to win a pole and finish third in his fourth and final start for Team Menard in '02 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“A hundred starts is proof that I've been doing a good job, because I never had to pay to drive, so I always had to prove that I could do the job that people were expecting,” Meira says of the milestone. "I think that this is one way to prove that and to feel good about it. There is a lot to be done still! I have not done nearly everything that I want to do, so I'm still pushing with the same will I had at my first race."
Meira admits the series has changed considerably since his debut: "IndyCar has evolved a lot since then. I have not seen as many changes as the guys from CART saw. When I joined, we did not have a lot of the teams we have nowadays. I saw IndyCar going from only ovals – mostly high-speed ovals – to short ovals then to a couple road courses per year, to now where we have 50 percent road courses and 50 percent ovals. I've seen Dallaras, G-Forces, Chevys, Hondas, and it's good to see and have this experience. It shows that the IRL is doing a good job evolving it, because there are only better teams and things are getting more and more competitive every year. To be part of it is cool, and to share the track with all the other drivers who have so much experience, too."
Meira shares the consensus view that qualifying for this weekend's race will be especially critical, given the nature of the Barber road circuit.
“[Qualifying] is very important because of what the track presents to us, which is a great facility with lots of high-speed corners but very tough to pass. Having a good qualifying run will help. It won't be a deciding factor, but will help. We're still going to have to have a good consistent car, but qualifying is going to be more important than it is at other tracks."
Meira added that he expects Barber Motorsports Park to be particularly tough on the drivers.
"When we were testing there, I felt it was very physically demanding – and other drivers I spoke with thought the same thing," he said. "I think the reason for that is a lot of high-speed corners and not-very-long straights. With the high-speed corners, the car gets very heavy and very nervous, so you have to be on your toes all the time. Not only that, the steering gets very heavy because of the amount of downforce. With that, there aren't very many long straights, so we don't have a lot of time to rest. It's quite a lot like Sonoma but with more high-speed corners."