Vitor Meira is a 10-year veteran of the Izod IndyCar Series. He currently drives the No. 14 ABC Supply Company Honda for A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
Meira has had a lot of success, with 56 top 10 finishes in 130 career starts despite having two very serious wrecks that caused him to miss some time.
His mental and physical strength is largely evident by what he had to endure to bounce back from those injuries as well as when healthy driving a race car at speeds over 200 mph while sustaining 3-4 lateral g-forces. The toll that takes on a body is grueling.
On Oct. 8, Meira will compete in what is considered the most grueling sports event known, the Ford Ironman World Championship.
Nearly 1,800 athletes will attempt the triathlon this year, with Meira being one of them. They will take on the 2.4 mile swin in the rough-waters of Waikiki, then do a 112 mile bike race and then finish up with a 26.2 mile marathon.
Not many people in the world can do this event.
I had the honor of talking to Mr. Meira about this and many IndyCar topics in a one on one exclusive interview.
We talked about everything from what made him interested in doing triathlons to his thoughts on the new engine package next season in the Izod IndyCar Series, what made him want to bounce back from his scary incident in the Indianapolis 500 last year and much more.
Meira was truly a great interview and went above and beyond is answering all the questions I asked. He could not have been any more gracious, and I'm very grateful he took the time to talk to me.
Here's a slideshow recap of our conversation.
This will be Meira's first Ford Ironman World Championship, but it won't be his first triathlon.
When asked how long he's been doing triathlons, Meira said "he's been training and doing them for the last five-six years."
I asked him what made him want to start doing such a grueling activity, and he said "racing is a real physical sport and he needs to be in top shape to compete. Triathlons are a good way to stay in top shape."
He went on to say he's "always ran and biked and finds triathlons fun."
He talked about how triathlons are big in his native country of Brazil and still growing.
I asked him what he felt is his best of the three events (swimming, biking and running) and he said biking is definitely the strongest of the three. The weakest he said was swimming.
Meira said "training for triathlons is basically like a second day job." He said "a training partner is a great value to him and that's why he works out with fellow countryman and Izod IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan."
Meira also said "he tries to use his schedule as an advantage." He said "him and Kanaan use Monday-Wednesday for their full workouts due to Thursday or Fridays being travel days for the upcoming race weekend."
He went on to say "he doesn't get a lot of time to workout on race weekends due to lack of resources, so that makes the workouts on Monday-Wednesday even more important."
Meira said there's not any swimming pools usually at the race track, so unless he goes to a hotel with a pool, there's not much pool training on race weekends.
I also asked Meira how training and doing triathlons help prepare him for not just an IndyCar race, but an entire season, and he touched on how "physical preparation for racing is his race car."
He went on to say that "drivers are getting less and less time in the car, so when he is in the car, it's very valuable. He needs to have his body in top shape because his body talks to him and lets him know what works or not. His body can help him prepare his race car."
I asked Meira to describe how hard it was to bounce back to doing triathlons and racing full-time in the Izod IndyCar Series again just over a year after this scary wreck in the Indianapolis 500.
He said, "the motivation was that he had so much time on his hands."
He went on to say, "with a back injury you're okay to do everything you could do before, but you can't get into an IndyCar until you're 100 percent healthy." He did physical therapy, running, swimming, which helped with recovery, but he still had too much time on his hand.
He told me, "with all the training and not being able to hop in the car, triathlons were there."
Many people consider Meira the best driver in the series to have never won a race. I asked him if that pressure gets to him, and since he's driving for one of the best open wheel race car drivers, if not the best open wheel race car driver, in the world adds to it.
He said, "it seems like that to everyone, but he just wants to work and give 100 oercebt effort." He feels if he gives 100% everytime then the results will come with the work.
He went on to say that, "to win in the series takes a lot of factors. You have to have a great team, great car, great set-up, great pit-stops and a great driver that gives 100 percent. If all of those happen the results will come, but it can't be forced."
I feel Meira has the drive and the skill to get in victory lane in his career. We all know he deserves many victories.
We're winding down to the end of the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series season. I asked Meira what some of the goals of him and his team are going forward to close the season.
He said, "they have to finish better than last year. They finished 12th in the season standings, which was the best in many years for Foyt Enterprises, but they feel they can do better."
Meira and the team feel with such a tight points battle in the middle of the standings, there's no reason they can't get to ninth in the standings after the last race in Vegas.
He feels the tracks left are his strongest in being they're 1.5-mile ovals.
He went on to say he feels those style of tracks suit him, and he has two very good cars left.
Next season, Chevrolet and Lotus will join Honda as engine providers for the Izod IndyCar Series. Honda has been the sole engine provider for the series for the last several seasons.
I first asked Meira about what his thoughts on the addition of the new engines were.
He said, "he's a huge fan of it and glad to be getting out of the specs."
He added, it's more fun to have diversity in the series."
His team will stay with Honda engines, and I asked him what his thoughts were about staying with Honda.
He told me Honda loves it that there will be competition. "They just want to beat everybody and prove they're the best."
We went on to talk about how his team owner A.J. Foyt expressed interest in expanding to two full-time teams next season. I asked if it is beneficial to him to have a teammate and if there was anyone in the works yet.
He brought up some good points on why they haven't added a second team yet and expressed they definitely need one.
He said, "It's only beneficial if it's done properly. If it's not done properly, then it divides what was already stable."
That was the main reason they haven't expanded yet and are careful with this decision.
It can work in both teams favor and benefit both cars, but they don't want to rush into it.
I wanted to know a driver's perspective on what the loss of some of the oval tracks over the last couple of years meant to him.
The Izod IndyCar Series has dropped Chicago, Kansas and Homestead off this year's schedule, and it's looking like Milwaukee and New Hampshire will be dropped off next year's.
With the oval tracks dropping and new road/street circuits being added, I wanted to get his take on it.
Meira feels if he was in charge, it would be 50/50.
He loves the mile and a half oval tracks, but says it's a business and the new road/street courses are bringing in big money and crowds where the ovals aren't. He used Baltimore and the Brazil races as examples.
With those perks of the addition to road/street courses, he welcomes them to the schedule.