Indy Racing League
Menards Infiniti Pro Series Texas 100
Travis Gregg, Al Unser, Thiago Medeiros and owner Sam Schmidt
MODERATOR: We welcome the second- and third-place finishers here at Texas Motor Speedway, Travis Gregg and Al Unser.
Al, we'll start with you. Third-place finish today, you had a bullet move right there with a couple of laps, talk about that and a little something that you're carrying along in that left thumb, talk about that situation just briefly?
AL UNSER: Well, first of all, since I've been carrying this thing with me all weekend, I'll start with that. I broke my thumb three weeks ago riding my dirt bike doing some extracurricular training I probably won't do again during the season. But I was lucky enough to have Terry Trammell operate on me like two-and-a-half weeks ago. I really should be in a cast, but he and (IRL Senior Director, Medical Sercvices) Dr. (Henry) Bock left me out and were able to clear me so I could get in the race car.
Second question, during the race, I think after that second restart, either Thiago didn't shift up to his next highest gear, but I think he hit the limiter, and I think Travis here, he hit the limiter and Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) had no choice but to get off the power. And I was already on the outside of him, and so my momentum just carried through. And then Travis here, I don't know if he knows or not, but he was nice enough to leave me some air and I was able to draft up by him a little bit and we had a nice close finish there at the end.
MODERATOR: Speaking of the finish, it was the fourth closest finish in Menards Infiniti Pro Series history. Travis, you were behind your teammate, Thiago, most of the time and almost clipped him. Talk about that final last lap and your thoughts and what you were trying to set up for that dash to the finish line?
TRAVIS GREGG: During that whole case, I knew I had a fast car and was just ducking behind him, and hopefully I could get a run on him the last couple of laps and wait for the right moment. These tracks, you get outside and let somebody get underneath you, you could get shuffled back pretty fast. The last laps, I was in fifth and when we hit the rev limit, we had a problem with our dash; it was reading fifth even though we were in sixth. I thought I was in sixth gear. We tried to make it down the back stretch in through Turn 4 and just didn't make it happen, but I'm happy with the second-place finish. Happy with a second-place finish today.
Q: What's it like running with somebody like Thiago? What has he helped you with this year being champion and really dominating the series?
TRAVIS GREGG: Well, he's real consistent, I have to say that. A couple of times when I thought we had a pole run, he ended up outdoing us by just that much. He's the champion this year and he deserves it. You know, it's good to have a teammate like that to learn after and gain some experience for next year.
Q: Both of have you great mentors, of course, Travis, Sam Schmidt former racing league star. And needless to say, Al starting with you, share with us a little bit, just little tidbits, what kind of advice have you received from the family?
AL UNSER: No, no, it's definitely more complicated than that or everybody would be doing it. First, I'd like to start with one of my family members this year, right over there is my younger sister, Cody, who is definitely the inner drive, gives me the -- I don't know, the ambition, the spirit to go out there and do what we do, running 180 miles an hour wheel-to-wheel. It's a blast for me, but she definitely gives me the drive to go home and train for it. She trains every day just to live in that wheelchair.
But other than that, going to my father and my grandfather, they definitely give me good setup experience. On that last restart, my dad got on the radio, or my spotter relayed a message from my father and he says, 'We need the best restart you've ever had,' and I tried my hardest. But it's, you know, I mean doing Thiago durng the restart, and then Travis trying to jump him and Arie trying to jump Travis, and I'm trying to jump all three of them, it was definitely very difficult.
But, you know, I definitely have a lot of help but in the Western Union Speed Team, I have two ex-Indy Lights drivers as my engineers, and we definitely can get the job done.
Q: Travis, talk about Sam. What's Sam able to relay to you, maybe just small pieces of advice or some major advice which helped you?
TRAVIS GREGG: Being a past Indy car driver, he relates some of that. But him just being there and his condition and him still being at the track doing what he does is really an inspiration for me. He can, you know, give me little bits of information. He was on the radio with me, tried to run me through the race, and it's just great to learn from someone like that with so much dedication and commitment to this team. It really makes me, you know, want to put my best effort, 110 percent, every time.
Q: Quickly, let's talk about 2005 any plans for either one of you? Al?
AL UNSER: 2005, I hope to be back in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and hopefully in the position that Thiago is in. My inspiration is to win the championship next year.
TRAVIS GREGG: Kind of the same. (Laughter) Thiago, hopefully when he steps out, I'll be able to jump in his seat. Things look good next year, and hopefully I'll be back again racing in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
MODERATOR: We have Thiago Medeiros. He is the winner of the Texas 100 and also the 2004 champion of the Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Is this your first cowboy hat? Is it as nice as your other one?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I won here last year, too, the race, so I'm still keeping that one in my home in Brazil.
MODERATOR: You had a dominating run, leading flag-to-flag, but it certainly wasn't easy, as Travis was on your tail and a couple of others that were ready to start snipping at you.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, it wasn't easy. The race was really close. I knew I had a quick car. I knew that I really had a really good car and nobody could go around us. I was running by them and I saw that nobody could go around me. When we went high a little bit, I went high to take the draft out of my car, and that's pretty much what I did for the whole race and nobody could go around me.
Q: Of course, for Thiago, your sixth win of the year, seventh of your career since this time last year. The seven wins, what's been the difference? What's put you just that much better than everybody else in the series? Is there anything that you put your finger on? Are you just that much better in the series?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Who knows? I mean, the little things make a lot of difference here in this series. I learned a lot in my first year and this year we worked together, so we got the best result in the championship.
MODERATOR: We are joined by championship car owner, Sam Schmidt. It's been a tremendous year in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, not just for and you and Thiago, but for all of your cars that have been running right at the front. Just talk about the year as a whole and just the effort that the team put in.
SAM SCHMIDT: Well, first of all, I'd like to just congratulate Thiago. I mean, he did a fantastic job all year. You know, I don't know what to say, I mean, I watched him last year and he did a great job. He never did anything wrong. He wasn't with a good team, but, you know, we definitely wanted him on our team this year.
And it's worked out really well. We did the proper amount of testing and we've got great chemistry with him and the team. You know, I can't say enough about Chris Griffis and Mike Soboleski and the guys on the car. We weren't extremely overstaffed or anything like that. It's just, you know, everything clicked, and it's just been a fantastic year.
Q: Talk a little bit, Sam, the championship has been wrapped up and so you're coming down here to race and all, but looking back at the season as a whole and now you have a championship in the Indy Racing League. For you, you were one of the first people to raise your hand when the Indy Racing League opened up. What does it mean to be a championship car owner mean for and you everybody involved?
SAM SCHMIDT: Well, it's been anything but easy. You know, after the accident in 2000, you know, trying to decide, it's a big life change. And I kind of went home and after about two months, my wife said, 'Why don't you find something to do to get you out of the house?'
So we started the team. And I've got to tell you, that first year with the accident with Davey Hamilton here, some of the other things that happened, we really had a roller coaster ride getting here. So I guess you can say we've earned it, and it feels like it's been a long time coming. And all of those things become real distant memories when you have a good year like this year. But it's extremely competitive.
I found think that the Menards Infiniti Pro Series is just a really good fit for me personally, because you can bring up drivers from F2000, F3, Midgets, Sprint cars and all of those things that I drove. It's really easy for me to try and help them not make the same mistakes I made. The only negative to running in this series is if you do a really good job, you've got to try and do it all over again next year with a new driver.
But it's just really exciting. It's kind of re-motivated me. It's made it easier to get up and travel and do what we have to do to come to the races. So it's a lot more fun winning.
Q: Thiago, let's take a little bit of look at next year, you've had some tests with IndyCar Series teams and all, just tell everybody what you would like, obviously an Indy car ride would be what you were looking at, but where do things stand and what would you like to see the 2005 season include?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: It's just hard to say. I'm still looking for some different teams, and we did a great job this year and we just put everything together. I learned a lot my first year in the Pro Series, and this year we got the best result. Sam Schmidt and I put everything together. It's a lot easier when you have the car and the team and the crew for the driver to go to the front.
I mean, I learned a lot of things and now I'm ready to go to the IndyCar Series. My background was in road courses, and I'm in good shape for both sides. The tests went really well and we're still working for money and to find a ride. There's not many seats available out there.
Q: Sam, if he doesn't come up with an IndyCar Series ride, is there a seat available with you?
SAM SCHMIDT: Well, of course, that would be an easy call but I don't know what else he could do. Frankly, with the records, the level of records he's set this year, that he's accomplished this year, and the number of laps, I can't even count the number of records he's set this year. I mean, what else can he do?
I sincerely hope that he gets a ride and that he can go up there and prove what he's capable of doing. I mean, you know, we know that he's capable of being successful up there. Like you said, it's unfortunate this year there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of people moving around up there. But I think he'll get an opportunity and he'll do a great job, and that will be great for the team as well, to send somebody up there and have them do a good job. So I think it's a win-win for everybody if he can.
Q: So he wouldn't have to tryout again?
SAM SCHMIDT: No, he wouldn't have to tryout.
Q: What was your reaction to Thiago and Travis running nose-to-tail for much of the race?
SAM SCHMIDT: After the cardiac arrest? Prior to California, I actually was pretty confident about things. But we had to nickname that car "Flipper" after California. So it's still on the block at Indy, it has not been repaired yet. No, these guys have done a fantastic job all year. The main reason for having Travis doing the three races this year is to get experience, and I think he did a fantastic job running where he ran. You know, he had a lot of pressure from behind, and you know, really just maintained a good position on the track and didn't do anything silly and took the run on the last lap and came up a little short. I think it will just be fantastic experience for next year. He's still learning how to read the car and he's doing -- he's just doing a fantastic job. I think, you know, Thiago did a great job of leading the race, as well.
I guess I'm obviously happier being 1-2, than being in the back and middle and getting caught up in the type of deal they had today. We've had a very, very fortunate year, unlike last year where we ran tracks with 16 cars. This has been a 180-degree turn, and I think part of that is just a -- a huge part of that is the team and the caliber of the drivers and being able to start up front. You don't get yourself caught up in as many situations.
So it's just, I guess, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and we've been lucky a lot this year. I'm kind of glad for it to be over.
MODERATOR: Congratulations to the champions. Now you can really go, even though you had it wrapped up, now you can say, 'We are the champions' and go out and enjoy this evening. I'm sure it's going to be enjoyable night.