IRL Infiniti Pro Series -- Western Union 100 Top three press conference: Mark Taylor, Thiago Medeiros, Brandon Erwin Moderator: We'll get started with our second- and third-place finishers with our inaugural Infiniti Pro Series race. When our...
IRL Infiniti Pro Series -- Western Union 100
Top three press conference:
Mark Taylor, Thiago Medeiros, Brandon Erwin
Moderator: We'll get started with our second- and third-place finishers with our inaugural Infiniti Pro Series race. When our winner shows up, we'll open with him. First, we'll introduce Thiago Medeiros. You started on the pole. You finished second in your first Infiniti Pro Series race. Tell us about your race.
Thiago Medeiros: I'm very happy. It's my first race in the oval superspeedway. I did some mistake in the restart. I tried to shift the gears up flat, but I couldn't. The engine hit the limiter, and I lost speed, Mark overtook me. On the last lap, my car was still pushing a lot because we were using the small wing kit on the front. It was pretty difficult. But I'm pretty happy. The season is long; we have 11 races. Nice place to start the season.
Moderator: Thank you. Again, he drives the No. 36 Genoa Racing entry. Our third-place finisher today, Brandon Erwin, pilots the No. 99 Natural Golf Sam Schmidt. You started back in the pack, midway back, in eighth place. Tell us about your drive toward the end.
Brandon Erwin: It was hard to drive in traffic. I just had to bide my time and wait to where I could get most of the guys moving up. I'd get underneath them; the car would just push with the aero push getting behind the other cars. Once I could figure out where I had them, where I could get them, I actually went slower to go faster. When I started being more impatient with myself, I was really trying to push the car too hard, I was making the front tires a little too hot. It felt like I was going slower, my time started coming down. I kept doing the same thing, just starting reeling guys in, reeling them in. Once I caught them, it was a little tough, once I got up behind them. I would just have to set them up and get them where I was strong. I can't say enough for Natural Golf and Sam Schmidt Motorsports team. They're the reason I'm here. They gave me the opportunity. I'm glad to be involved.
Moderator: At this time while we're waiting on Mark Taylor, we'll field questions from our media.
Q: Brandon, there at the end it looked like Arie was hauling you in. Catching up to Arie Luyendyk, was traffic coming into play?
Erwin: I saw him in my mirror, checking him every lap down the straightaway. I caught myself checking a little too much. I tried not to focus on him. I didn't think he had what it took to pass on the outside, even if he did catch me in the draft. I think I was running the lower part of the track better than most of the guys. They would run in there and couldn't get the run off the corner that I could get coming off the low side. I didn't think I could pass. I knew he was coming. I knew traffic was coming. The No. 3 car kind of messed me up a little bit. He closed me down when he could have given me some room going into the corner. Once I cleared him, he stayed out of Arie's way, Arie cleared him. We came up on another car, but it just worked out perfect. Coming off the corner, I got right around him. Once I broke free of that traffic, he didn't really run up on me. He ran up on me kind of going into the final turn. Like I said, he was up high there and didn't have anything for me off the corner.
Q: Do you feel like if you hadn't missed the shift or lost momentum on the restart, you weren't catching him at the end, would he have caught you?
Medeiros: Yes, because my big problem was when I was in the draft, because the car was still pushing. We were using the small wing kit on the front. When I was alone on the track to catch him, I did the best lap in the race. I could feel the car very well. When I arrive on the draft, the car is still pushing. We had side winds on the four corners, it was a big problem for me. Whoever was using the biggest wing, had more speed easy to hold the line. The small wing is difficult. You don't have a lot of downforce on the front and it's difficult to hold the line.
Moderator: Quick announcement. Mark Taylor is on his way in.
Q: I assume once you were in second, you didn't feel like you had much chance because the nose was pushed when you got anywhere close to him?
Medeiros: No. I try to do the best that I can do, but on the draft it was a bit difficult. I try to wait for Mark to make mistake. He don't make any mistake. I don't have a lot of experience on the ovals. I learn. I'm pretty happy to start the season with the second place. Congratulations to Mark because he did a very nice race.
Moderator: Joining us at this time is the winner of the Miami 100, Mark Taylor. Mark drives the No. 4 Panther Racing entry. Congratulations, Mark. Give us a brief comment about your initial victory.
Mark Taylor: It's a great result for us, start of the year. We thought we might be struggling in the beginning because my experience on ovals, this is my first oval race. To win your first oval race is a great achievement for the team. I have to say they nurtured me through the testing this winter and made sure that I didn't make too big a mistake too early, made sure that we got the car right, how I felt comfortable in it. Felt more and more comfortable this weekend. I was able to say through the race it was a great car. The heat had a little effect on the car halfway through the race. The yellow flags that there were seemed to be able to help with the tires. They cooled down the tires. The car felt really good. I was able to really drive it through the corners and was able to pull away a comfortable margin and just take it home to victory, which is a great, great feeling.
Q: Can you take us through your race a little at a time? Obviously, you won't take us the length of the race, but talk about when you moved to the lead, where you were losing ground, whether when you got to the lead you felt secure it was yours to keep?
Taylor: Thiago had a little bit of a problem at the start. He seemed to be hitting the limiter as we were coming up to the start/finish. I was able to get into the first corner first, which I wasn't expecting. It was a shock to be leading into the first corner. I was able to drive my race the way I wanted to drive it. I was concentrating on the speed, constant speeds. I was putting away for the first 10, 15 laps I guess it was, the car felt really good. Just started trying to adjust the car to get it to feel better. It started to understeer because of the heat. The tires were just slightly going off. You have to work the car a little bit harder. Just had a little bit of an adjustment in the car. While I was there, I flicked off the ignition switch. That's why I dropped back into second. Took me a couple seconds to figure out what was happening. I didn't lose too much ground. I was able to get back behind him (Jeff Simmons). Unfortunately, with the amount of wind that comes off the car in front, you have a lot of understeer in the car. It's very difficult to get close to a car that's running quickly ahead. You have to take care of the tires, hoping that they're going to make a mistake, ruin their tires quicker than you can, and hopefully take advantage in the future. It's a very difficult situation. He found himself in traffic, and he made the mistake. Just lost the back end. It was unfortunate. He held onto it for a while. Must have been three-quarters of the way through the corner, he looked like he was going to hold it, it suddenly snapped on him. For me, it was a good result. I was able to take the lead again, control the race. Car felt good. After the last yellow flag, I was able to drive away from Thiago literally because I think he had the understeer of my car. But I have to say great job for Panther, great job by Woody (Brent Harvey, engineer), Chris (Griffis, crew chief). They've done a great job this weekend to put the car out there, make it the quality of the field.
Q: How close were you to him when he (Jeff Simmons) did spin? Was there any danger for you? Were you right on him? Did you have a cushion?
Taylor: About two car lengths when he started losing the back end. I thought he was going to go up into the wall. He decided to come straight across in front of me. I'd say there's probably about half a car length there. It was pretty close. He moved out of the way pretty quick. That was the lucky side of it. I've always been told to aim high on the ovals. Although the banking is not too high. I have to say I was a little bit lucky to get away with it. I was very close to him. If he had corrected, I might have even hit him, the way he was going. There were two or three cars around him at the time, it looked like to me. There wasn't too much room on the racetrack for me to go anywhere.
Q: Did you change your line at all? Did you keep a straight line?
Taylor: When he started going, I pulled to the inside. I felt that he might be going wide. I tried to keep on the inside of him. When I realized that he was broadside on the track, I saw he was off quite a lot, I was able to ease the car up toward the wall and squeeze past him.
Q: Mark, what was the primary experience of your first oval? Were there any surprises?
Taylor: There's a whole lot of surprises. I could list them. The first lap is probably the most exciting thing you can imagine. All the nervous energy that you've got leading up to it. You get through the start and suddenly through that first corner you realize that the car's feeling good. Apart from the cold tires, you're starting to feel comfortable in the car. The amount of reaction that you need, the tires are changing the whole time, the wind and the heat and the track conditions, they're all changing all the way through the race. You have to adjust the car to get the car to still feel the same as it did the beginning, the first five laps, when it feels at its best. You're just hoping to keep the same lap times. If you can keep the same lap times you are at the start of the race, you're doing a very good race. Sixty, 70 laps is a long time on a set of tires. They're going away. You can really feel it at the end, just losing grip, the car sliding about. You have to correct the car almost at every corner, especially if there's someone behind you, like Thiago, pushing me all the way till the end of the race. I think that was the idea anyway (laughter). Just to be able to get the five, six car lengths was really good for me. Suddenly I was able to relax with five laps to go, 10 laps to go or something. When the car was just starting to move again after the yellow flags, I was able to just back it off that little bit more, able to cruise it home.
Moderator: That will do it. Congratulations on a great start to the season, gentlemen.