IPS: Medeiros wants top step

IPS: Medeiros wants top step

This time Thiago Medeiros expects to come out on top and the young Brazilian is prepared to work as hard as he can to make his way to the finish line first when the Indy Racing League's Menard Infiniti Pro Series starts its third season this...

This time Thiago Medeiros expects to come out on top and the young Brazilian is prepared to work as hard as he can to make his way to the finish line first when the Indy Racing League's Menard Infiniti Pro Series starts its third season this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thiago Medeiros.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Last year Medeiros held pole position at this event but ended the race in second place, behind eventual champion Mark Taylor. This season Medeiros has a year of learning the 12 tracks where the Menards Infiniti Pro Series competes and finally grabbed his initial victory in the season closer at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing fourth overall in the season-long standings.

For 2004 Medeiros joins Sam Schmidt Motorsports and can avail himself of Schmidt's knowledge of oval racing in the United States. Currently residing far from his Brazilian home, in Indianapolis, Thiago is making every effort to succeed in his chosen field by being close to the teams, close to the action.

After two test days to prepare for the coming season, Medeiros was fastest, both at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, two very different circuits. "I'm ready!" he declared. "I'm very excited to get started. Both tests were good and we didn't change the car too much."

The 21-year-old from Sao Paulo came up through the karting ranks and made his first start in cars in 1997, driving in Brazilian Formula Chevrolet. He won that championship one year later and, in 1999 made his South American Formula 3 debut, winning a pole and finishing 10th in the point standings.

By 2000 Medeiros was up to sixth overall in South American F3 and in 2001 he finished third, with five wins and five poles in 12 races. Despite running eight of nine events in 2002, Thiago finished fourth in the same series with one pole position.

It was time for a change and last year Thiago Medeiros came to America. Alone. He quickly picked up English, learned to chat with the media and set about learning how to compete on oval race tracks, something he'd never done before.

Working with Genoa Racing on a rather tight budget, Medeiros scored that single win in the season finale, seven top-five and ten top-ten finishes, failing to complete only two events. He had an accident in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and electrical gremlins sidelined Medeiros at Gateway. He led only four laps in those 12 100-lap contests, the final four at Texas in October.

"The Texas win was very important for me," he recalled. Although taking pole position in his first American race was exciting, nothing beats a win. He had to learn about the series and the tracks, and that knowledge gives Medeiros a step up for 2004.

Thiago Medeiros.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
With the changes to the Homestead-Miami 1.5-mile oval that gives it graduated banking, Medeiros thinks it'll be "more like Chicagoland. Everybody will be very close, side-by-side racing." It's easy to see he's looking forward to that first race this coming Sunday morning; his voice tells the story.

Medeiros' fire to drive comes from "confidence in my abilities. I always try to do my best. I have been strong in my competition; I have won championships before. I like racing, no matter what kind," he explained.

He's looking forward to his first year with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and working with new teammate Arie Luyendyk Jr. One thing both drivers have in common is height: Thiago stands a lanky 6'5" while Arie is 6'2". "I'm confident about being able to move forward and work with Arie. We have similar driving styles and can compare notes.

"He's a good driver," Medeiros said of the young Luyendyk, who had a difficult season in 2003, finishing seventh after taking second place in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series initial 2002 campaign. "It's good to have a teammate, particularly one who knows the lines better at some tracks than I do," he laughed.

Like most Brazilians, Medeiros got his inspiration from the drivers who went before him, to CART, IRL and Formula One. "I came to America because it's a nice place to be, a good lifestyle. I wanted to find someplace where I could do my best and this is it."

As is the case with most fine athletes, Thiago Medeiros spends a lot of time working out with a regular schedule. But he also likes to play video games, which he thinks is good for his concentration, working at it for hours, he advised. He also enjoyed his first taste of snow driving in Indy. "I like driving in poor weather like this," he laughed.

Together with the balance of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series competitors, Medeiros is heading for Miami in a couple of days, to climate that most resembles his hometown. But that's not what he's looking for in South Florida - this time, Thiago Medeiros wants more than the pole position. He wants to win.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Sam Schmidt , Eric Gilbert , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.