Leonardo Maia press conference

An interview with Leonardo Maia Merrill Cain: We bring in Leonardo Maia of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. We appreciate you joining us on today's call. Leonardo Maia: Thanks for having me. Before we get started, I want to say thanks and ...

An interview with Leonardo Maia

Merrill Cain: We bring in Leonardo Maia of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. We appreciate you joining us on today's call.

Leonardo Maia: Thanks for having me. Before we get started, I want to say thanks and congratulations to Tony on driving a really good race. I talked to him a bit before the race. He seemed kind of down. I was happy to see him have a good showing there.

Merrill Cain: It is good for him. Certainly one of those guys we like to root for.

Leo is a 21-year-old driver from Oakland, California, currently living in Miami. As we mentioned earlier, Leo captured his first professional victory at Road America after earning the pole position for the race. He's currently seventh in the Barber Dodge Pro Series standings.

Talk a little bit about your performance this past weekend. It had to feel pretty good to get over that hump and get that first pro win.

Leonardo Maia: Yeah. Speaking of monkeys, it's good to get one off my back. Everything just went perfectly, the kind of weekend you dream about. You come into a weekend just kind of playing it over in your head like, "What can happen? What's going to happen?" This weekend everything just worked the way I wanted it to.

In the Barber Dodge Pro Series, it's so competitive. If you have just a slight slip-up, you're going to get swallowed up by the whole field. Everybody is really close. Everyone is really fast. It's good to just have a good weekend. To get my first win was just incredible. It was my first time on the podium. To come on the podium on top was a great feeling.

Merrill Cain:  It was an awesome race to watch.  We offer you
congratulations.  Let's take a few questions.

Q: What is it like for the younger kids to be in the environment with the major leaguers?

Leonardo Maia: Well, it's good to have those guys always around you. They always help out and wish you luck. It's good to have them racing with us because it's like you said, we can always look at them, look at Champ Cars in particular and say, "That's where I want to be." Hopefully I can be there in a few years.

Unfortunately, race car driving, it's not just what we do on the track. We spend a lot of time doing stuff off the track. We really don't get to spend a lot of time with the Champ Car guys, unfortunately.

It's good to race with them, but unfortunately we don't get as much time as we'd like to go out and maybe watch and participate in some of the stuff they do.

Q: Looks like it could be a great year for launching careers out of the Oakland area. [NASCAR driver] Bill Lester is involved in the truck series. Are you kind of overcoming something coming from an area that hasn't produced a lot of people in this sport?

Leonardo Maia: It's a great place. I've lived there pretty much all my life. I'm just doing the best that I can, whether it's coming from Oakland or wherever. I mean, I can't explain that whole Oakland phenomenon. I hope it keeps going. We have another driver in the pro series, Christian Szymczak, who was on the pole at Mid-Ohio, also from Oakland. He's a good friend of mine. I don't know. Maybe it's time for Oakland to start getting in on this racing stuff.

Q: You wear a Brazilian flag on your uniform, but you're from Oakland?

Leonardo Maia: I'm from Oakland. I was born in Brazil actually, Rio. I moved to the United States in 1984, when I was about four years old. So I've been living in the East Bay in Oakland about 17 years. Just now I moved to Miami.

Its difficult being from one country and then living in another because you always kind of feel torn between the US and Brazil. I mean, I try to kind of split it up. On my car, I put the American flag. On my uniform, I wear the Brazilian flag.

Q: You have dual citizenship?

Leonardo Maia: Yes, I do.

Q: Tony said you're beating him in the go-karts. Is this a good workout for you to drive against these guys in go-karts in Miami?

Leonardo Maia: It's definitely a good workout. Any time I'm not in a race car, I try to do laps in the go-kart. It's great with them, too, because I get to say I beat a Champ Car driver, which only makes me feel that much better. I heard he got a new motor, too. That might not happen anymore.

Q: Have you wiped that grin off your face yet?

Leonardo Maia: Not yet. It's till here, as big as ever.

Q: Road America, being four miles long, is probably twice as long as any racetrack you've been on before. What's the most challenging part of that racetrack for you? Is the mental part of it, keeping your concentration, extra difficult?

Leonardo Maia: Yeah. In terms of the turns, the most physical one I'd say has to be the carousel just because you're in it for a long time. We pull close to the most g's we pull at any track in that corner.

But Road America itself is not very physical because you do get these huge straightaways that you can rest on. It's not like Mid-Ohio where you have pretty much one straight and the rest of the track is a bunch of corners.

In terms of concentration, it's probably the toughest race of my life because of those straightaways. It gives you plenty of time to think about actually messing up in a corner or something like that and trying to build up your advantage.

I'd have to say it is probably one of the most challenging mentally because you're not doing anything to the car for a lot of the laps, so you have a lot of time to think about other stuff, unlike Mid-Ohio where you're focused on driving the car. Q: "How many ways can I screw up this next corner?"

Leonardo Maia: Exactly.

Q: Tony talked a lot about the friendships with other drivers. I noticed at Cleveland you went out of your way to congratulate Davy Cook for his win. Can you talk about your friendships with the other Barber Dodge drivers and how you go through a weekend with that?

Leonardo Maia: Well, we're all pretty much friends. Davy and I have been friends for a long time because we pretty much started racing around the same time. We've been pretty much racing the same series our whole lives. He's a very good friend of mine. I just want to congratulate him on that first win of his. I told him he's one of the drivers that if I don't get to win the race that I'm just as happy that he got to win it.

All of us in the Pro Series are good friends. I've had some problems with some drivers, but about two days later they're back to being friends. It's a great atmosphere.

I'd like to reiterate what Tony said. It's good to have friendships in a competitive environment. It doesn't make you any more or less competitive; it just makes things that much more enjoyable.

Merrill Cain: You were talking about friends. The other side of the coin, let's talk about some rivalries. You have a rivalry going with [2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion] AJ Allmendinger. He has had a pretty dominant season, winning the title. You have gone at it on the track a number of times. You also were in competition with him for the Barber CART scholarship, which you ended up winning at Sebring in December. Talk about your battle with him and what that's been like this year.

Leonardo Maia: For most of this year, he's had the upper hand. Just now I'm starting to maybe get in the groove and starting to show what I can do. He did a great job in the Formula Dodge National Series last year. He just barely lost it to Julio Campos in his first year, which is really impressive. I was fortunate enough to beat him at the shootout and win the scholarship. He came right back, as big as ever and just pretty much dominated this whole series. Finally, now I'm just starting to get warmed up. Hopefully I'll have something for him in the last race at Montreal.

Merrill Cain: Are you excited about going to Montreal? Obviously it's a place where there's a lot of tradition and history. Are you looking forward to it?

Leonardo Maia: Oh, yeah, definitely. There are a couple Canadian drivers in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. They've been telling me all year how great Montreal is going to be.

The first two races there were just completely mind-blowing. I've never seen that many fans - really informed fans, too. It looks like a great track - a Formula 1 circuit. Champ Cars are going to run on it for the first time. It's going to be pretty much new to everyone. I'm just really looking forward to it.

Merrill Cain: Thanks for joining us on the teleconference this afternoon. We wish you the best of luck coming up this weekend in Montreal, and best of luck for the remainder of the season, as well.

Leonardo Maia: Thank you.

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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Christian Szymczak , Davy Cook , Julio Campos , Leonardo Maia , Bill Lester