Menards Infiniti Pro Series Chicagoland 100 September 11, 2004 Thiago Medeiros - race winner Jeff Simmons - second Al Unser - third MODERATOR: We're joined by the second- and third-place finishers in today's Chicagoland 100. For Al Unser, it's...
Menards Infiniti Pro Series
September 11, 2004
Thiago Medeiros - race winner
Jeff Simmons - second
Al Unser - third
MODERATOR: We're joined by the second- and third-place finishers in today's Chicagoland 100. For Al Unser, it's his fourth third-place finish in seven races this season. Today was the 10th of a 12-race season in the Pro Series.
For Jeff Simmons, today with his second-place finish, he also finished second at Indianapolis earlier this year at the Freedom 100. It is his 11th top-five finish in 15 starts.
Jeff, tell us about your run today.
JEFF SIMMONS: We've been struggling trying to find top speed, basically the whole weekend. We knew we were going to have a good car for the race in terms of running in the traffic. I mean, I could run inches away from somebody and still stay planted right behind them.
I basically worked my game plan the whole race. I mean, even during that last caution, I had pretty good restart gears in my car. I talked with the crew, I said, 'I don't think we can lead. Even if I get him on the restart, I think everybody would just drive right back by us.'
It was a long race. It's always tough when you're staying that close to somebody in the front and trying to protect your position. But, you know, it was a pretty clean race. Everybody was racing really hard, but it stayed clean. It was a lot of fun.
MODERATOR: Al, how about you, can you talk about your run today?
AL UNSER: Well, my weekend was kind of like Jeff's. We were struggling for the top speed, but we knew we had it in traffic. I think a lot of the guys had the same thing, including P.J. (Chesson) and everybody else who moved up toward the front.
I did the same thing, strategized my race. In the beginning, I just wanted to get to the front. I was able to get by Travis (Gregg) and move into second. But then the first restart I kind of thought, unlike Jeff here with the experience, I thought I could maybe get him on the restart.
We were able to get up alongside him, but it didn't stick. Jeff was able to get up underneath me. Just like Jeff said, I mean, being that close to somebody that long, I had Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) breathing down my neck, I was breathing down his neck. I'm sure everybody was behind Arie trying to get everybody else. It's just so much fun when you finish so close.
MODERATOR: Questions for our drivers.
Q: Jeff, you were saying you had to play the patience game. Can you talk about that? You said you couldn't lead the race. How frustrating was that, knowing you couldn't really pull out?
JEFF SIMMONS: Well, it's tough, you know, because if we had a car that could lead, I think we could have gotten there. I just tried to make everybody do what Thiago (Medeiros) was trying to make us do, drive around the outside and run the longer track.
But we just -- we couldn't pull the gear that we needed to be able to pull. You know, we were losing probably 150 at least, 150 revs. The other guys were able to pull through that.
So, you know, basically, my game plan going into it was just to try and stay near the front for most of it. If I could get into second place, that's where I want to be because that's the best place to try to protect from, I think, then just wait until that last lap, try to make a move, try to get a run.
If you watched closely, that was about the only lap that I dropped back coming out of Turn 2 to try to get a run on Medeiros. I left him a couple car lengths coming out, got a run, got down there, tried to make a move. He got a wiggle, actually, because I was so close to him. We just didn't have enough to win the race.
I'm really thankful for the guys on Team ISI and Kenn Hardley Racing. They worked hard. They didn't give up, fought a hard race. Second is not bad.
Q: Al, why don't you talk about your season so far. You came into the series about seven races ago. You finished up there with podium finishes a number of times.
AL UNSER: Well, we've had seven races, this is my fourth third (-place finish). We had a fifth in Nashville and sixth last race in Colorado.
I've been having a lot of fun, especially on the Western Union Speed Team. We're looking forward to next year. I've been staying road racing, getting ready to go ahead and make these cars turn right. Just ready to get going.
I've had so much fun, actually, with half a season of racing. I wish I would have been there for the full thing because we moved greatly up into the points just having good, consistent finishes.
Q: Will either of you guys be at the road-racing test?
AL UNSER: I believe possibly that my team is going to be testing there.
JEFF SIMMONS: I don't think so. I'd like to.
AL UNSER: I think it's Schmidt and Duesenberg. There might be a third.
MODERATOR: I think it's those two teams. We just haven't been told the drivers for the Duesenberg team at this point.
AL UNSER: I hope to be the driver (laughter).
Q: Jeff, having raced last year and this year, how do you feel, sort of the competitiveness of the series? Has it risen, is it the same?
JEFF SIMMONS: I think that this season has gotten stronger as it's gone. I think that, you know, last year the field was fairly deep. Early on this season, it wasn't as deep. But I think that now, you know, especially today, there were a lot of strong guys. P.J. Chesson coming in, Al coming in, Leo Maia, Jesse Mason, those guys developing, Arie is still here, Thiago is here. It's fairly deep now. I think it's certainly competitive.
You've gotten guys that have moved around in the teams and the crews, which has spread the knowledge a bit, as well, and made some teams more competitive than they were even last year.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys.
We're now joined by race winner Thiago Medeiros. This is his fifth win of the season and his sixth career win. With two races left, Thiago has a 95-point lead in the championship point race. Tell us about your day.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, it was great. The team gave me the best car out there today. We had the best car out yesterday, too. We were quick in the second practice session. I knew we had a really good car for the qualification. We took advantage of the draft, we were just doing our job. We were quick on the qualification. We put everything together, and it worked.
I knew that some other guys could be working together, trying to make a move in the last lap. I just made sure that I did a good start and then I was taking my time, because I knew that everybody would be waiting for the last laps, trying to do something.
They gave me the great car out there today. I was just trying to make some change in my line so nobody could go around me. I'm really happy to get 52 points more for the championship.
MODERATOR: Just talk a bit more about your season as a whole, how things have gone for you.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, it's going really well. I think that now we already have the pole record. We're looking forward to getting the victory record from Mark Taylor. He did seven. Now I got my fifth this season. We still have two races left. We'll see what's going to happen. I mean, still two races to go. Our plan is to keep winning, keep leading the most number of laps that we can, then we can get a championship pretty soon.
Q: Jeff Simmons said he got close to you. On the radio, he actually said he might have had contact with you. Did you feel any contact with that little wiggle?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I had a wiggle on the last lap, but I couldn't feel that he really touched me or not. I just felt the car slide sideways on the last corner. I don't know, I mean, I made a change trying to go a little bit -- I knew he was trying to go around me, because I did not give him enough room for the inside. I knew that he would try to do something the last lap, so I just changed my mind and went a little bit higher, to see if he would take the bottom. He didn't. He went higher. I don't know. He tried to get a run on me in the warm-up early this morning. Some other guys were working together from three cars, working from the outside. I just kept the bottom so nobody could go around me. After that, I was feeling really confident about our setup. Then we didn't make many changes for the race, just little changes, because the temperatures changed. But we knew that we had a really good car out today.
Q: Earlier when Jeff and Al were in here, people asked the question about how the level of competition has changed as the season's advanced. It's gotten that much tougher. Can you comment a little about that?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I think everybody learns during the whole season. I mean, all the drivers start to have more confidence in each other, and they know what they are going to do when they're running side-by-side. The teams have learned more about the cars, and Menards made some improvements to the engine. That's why we were quicker this year from the qualifying last year. I mean, everybody keeps developing the equipment - not only the drivers, but the teams and engines and everything. So I think it's hard to explain that, but the whole group works, and everything goes forward.
Q: You're so close to securing the championship. Your thoughts on that and what it means for you.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, it means a lot, you know. Just I know, and some other people that have been hanging out with me for my whole career know, how hard I have been fighting and doing everything, trying to improve my English, trying to improve my workout, trying to do everything perfect. But one thing that I learned is, if you want to be great, you have to be good. You have to learn what you do. I made a few mistakes a few weeks ago, and I learned with that. So I'm just trying to do my best, keep learning with my mistakes, because nobody's perfect. Everybody will make some mistakes. You just have to learn and do not make the same mistake again. You can make other mistakes, but not the same one.
MODERATOR: Thiago, thank you very much.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you.