Futaba Freedom 100 Winner's Press Conference Thiago Medeiros, Sam Schmidt Saturday, May 22, 2004 Pat Sullivan: Thiago, in Victory Lane it looked like you were a pretty excited winner. Congratulations. Talk about those first couple of laps with...
Futaba Freedom 100 Winner's Press Conference
Thiago Medeiros, Sam Schmidt
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Pat Sullivan: Thiago, in Victory Lane it looked like you were a pretty excited winner. Congratulations. Talk about those first couple of laps with Jeff Simmons.
Thiago Medeiros: It was a very good start. He took advantage from the start because he needed to have a very long straightaway, and it was very windy, as well, at the same time. He overtook me on the start because we had a very strong straightaway, and we did not have enough horsepower to pull out. We had a very hard and clean run. We touched the wheels in the exit of Turn 2 on the first lap, and Jeff is one guy that I have a lot of confidence to run side by side. I mean, he did a wonderful job. We had a very hard fight for first place, but I knew that my car was handling very good. We made some changes before the race. We put a bit more downforce in the car because we saw the wind conditions were completely different than we saw yesterday. I knew that if I started to work on the car during the race, I could overtake him again, and that's what we did. I just took advantage when he gave me enough room and overtook him and took the car around today at the end of the race.
Sullivan: Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) and Jeff both mentioned how difficult it was to go flat around the course in various places with the wind, and oil-dry caused some problems. And I picked up from their description of the race, they thought that perhaps you were able to stay a little bit more flat totally around the course. Talk about it from your perspective.
Medeiros: It's hard to say. I have very good car control. I know that I have, and I just took advantage from that, and when I was behind Simmons I couldn't keep my car really behind him. I just took my time and was studying whether I was quicker than him to take advantage and try to overtake him. He made a mistake and gave me enough room. When I was running behind him, the weather conditions were really hard. The car was pushing in (Turns) 1 and 2 and loose in (Turns) 3 and 4. But I knew that we had to have a very good car, and I started to make some changes in the rear and the weight-jacker, just to see how the car feels after those changes, and the car was feeling really good. I just overdrove the car a little bit when I was really behind him trying to overtake him. I could overtake him and then just go back, drive the car around and make a better balance to the end of the race.
Sullivan: A good day for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Sam, you've etched your name as a winning car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sam Schmidt: Thank you. Those last five laps were pretty emotional, and I saw the yellow (flag) come out, I pretty much knew we had it. All I ever wanted to do since I was 5 years old was come to this place. Rick Mears was my hero, and I would love to be setting where he is, but this is kind of the second-best thing. You know, after everything me and my family have been through for the last five years, this is pretty special.
Sullivan: Sure it is, and it's special for all of us. Talk about this guy. Obviously, you have two good drivers. Thiago has been coming on really strong, he came to us with good credentials and looks like he has the right stuff.
Schmidt: Yeah, you not only look at your own situation every year, but you look at everybody else's, your competitors' and different things, and I knew in his situation last year that the guy could come out here and win a lot of races and win the championship. So, you know, we started talking at the end of last year, and we were able to put something together in January. It's fantastic for our team. We've also, you know, grown our team, and I think the team has elevated, as has Thiago, our games, to where we're just really proud of the guys. We knew that after Phoenix, everybody else was going to try and win this race really, really hard and A.J. (Foyt), pulling his secret weapon out of the garage one more time, we knew that would be the stiffest competition possible for a long race. But, you know, the guys just worked. They didn't take a vacation the last six weeks. They have been working on that car and Arie's car. One-two would have been nice, but I'm not greedy.
Medeiros: I learned one thing, that those guys made me look good here today, great, to be honest. I wasn't anything without them. So I'm just very pleased with all the team has done for me, and they are just very focused on our car and our job. We try to do the best we can be and find something together to go to the IRL (IndyCar Series).
Q: Is there some secret that Brazilians have to coming here?
Medeiros: In Brazil, as I told you before, I mean, it's kind of feeling like you don't have much choice, either you are a good soccer player or a race car driver. So, I wasn't a good player. (Laughter).
Q: I understand there's no Firestone label left on that left-rear tire. Can you talk about getting that close to Jeff, and you guys touching a little?
Medeiros: We touched a little on the first lap. Jeff is one guy that I met last year, and we made a lot of runs together last year, when he finished in second and I finished in fourth in the championship. He's one guy who is very experienced, and he knows how to push. He knows how far he can push the car and doesn't overdrive the car. He knows his limits. We have a lot of confidence running side by side. I think that he will say the same about me. But, you know, we are here to race, and let's go racing hard. That's what happened. We had a lot of confidence. We just touched the wheels, but that's one thing that happens in auto racing.
Q: Watching your laps, you were running consistently faster, and then the lead kept widening and widening and widening, and it seemed like you got stronger. Without the yellows, do you think you could have kept pulling away and your car was that much stronger?
Medeiros: We had our doubt over the weekend here because we didn't really know how the weather conditions were going to be this morning. That's what I thought. It was running through our minds this weekend because the weather conditions here have changed so fast, and we were thinking about the choices that we had from the previous years that we had for the start of the race time. I think that we made the right choice. The gears were perfect. When I was running behind Jeff, I mean, I did not have a taller gear, but I think it was the top speed that we could get here, and not only by myself, but when drafting the other cars, as well. I think we did the right choice. I could get away, I mean, I was pushing hard all the time to be very consistent and very concentrated on my job at the same time, because when things start getting easy, it's easy to lose your concentration here, and trying to drive to the limit of the car and every time pushing hard, that's what I did.
Q: How different is it this track from anywhere else? In Phoenix, you lapped the entire field, but this place is different, every turn is different, every time you go around the track, it changes. Was it hard to keep up with or were you able to obviously handle it?
Medeiros: Let's talk about the race in two different parts. So, the first part, the middle of the race, when I was running behind Jeff and I had to make some changes, my car was really, really loose behind Jeff because I made a lot of changes to keep my car behind him. I did not have enough downforce to keep my car low, and I was trying to get a run on him. The wind was blowing sideways in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I was really, really loose, especially behind him, because we got some back winds and some side winds. So the car was like, 'Ooohh.' I mean, I drove the car to the limit. I like to be on the edge. It doesn't matter if the car has two, three, four wheels, I like to drive the car. After I overtook him, I made some changes, went back to the restart with the changes I made, and I was pretty confident. The car had a very good balance to the end of the race.
Q: Were you sure the last 10, 15 laps that nobody could probably take you?
Medeiros: I mean, it's hard to say that. That's one of the reasons I did not celebrate the race until I crossed the finish line. (Laughing) Especially here Indy, I saw many videotapes about the race before I came here. I think that videotape gives me a lot of help. The videotapes are the only thing that really showed me, especially the point that I really learned how those guys drive and saw so many close finishes here in Indy, that was one of the reasons I did not celebrate the race until crossing the brickyards. Everything could be possible, you never know. Some mechanical problem, you never know.
Q: Did you get fined for speeding on pit road coming in after the victory? You locked them up a couple of times.
Medeiros: We were running without first gear to have a more -- I mean, we don't have to use the first gear here on the big tracks, especially like this. We didn't have enough horsepower to leave my marks here on the Indy track. So, let's lock the brakes, and this is my point.
Sullivan: Well, I don't know if we've had a happier winner, so congratulations.