IRL: Crashed-car keychain brings Christmas cheer

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When Vitor Meira ran into a sponsorship conflict that cancelled a promised meet-and-greet with fans, the Brazilian ace at Panther Racing vowed he'd do something to make amends to his admirers. The result is a novelty that's become much ...

When Vitor Meira ran into a sponsorship conflict that cancelled a promised meet-and-greet with fans, the Brazilian ace at Panther Racing vowed he'd do something to make amends to his admirers.

The result is a novelty that's become much sought-after in Indianapolis this winter: a carbon-fiber keychain charm from Meira's wrecked Dallara/Honda at the Chicagoland Speedway.

Meira's shop manager at Panther, Jamie Nanny, took charge of cutting the pieces of wing sheared from the No. 4 Delphi car in a collision during the season-ending Chicagoland 300 IndyCar race into small rectangular pieces.

"Let's cut the broken carbon pieces into a keychain," thought Nanny. "We can make them like a small Marsh (grocery store) or CVS card, and fans can have a broken piece of Vitor's car on their key ring."

Thus was born one of the best gifts ever for loyal Indy Racing League fans.

Once the carbon fiber charms were cut, similar in shape and size to the widely-known plastic affinity cards many stores offer to build customer loyalty and scan at checkout for discounts on purchases, Panther's crew painted them with a cool feline head on one side and Meira autographed the other.

Voila! An instant classic of a keepsake and fan goodie extraordinaire.

To top it off Meira handwrote a "Thank You for your support" letter to accompany the keychain charm, and off the uniquely-executed gift went to the Post Office for mailing to members of IndyCar's DownForce fan club who were left disappointed in September.

"Let's do something really special for the fans," said Meira on the Panther Racing website of the gift.

As the smiles abound in Nap-town and surrounds, it looks like Vitor and the Panther Racing Team have hit a home run with the people who fill the seats and push the turnstiles that move IndyCar.

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Series INDYCAR