Menards Infiniti Pro Series Aventis Racing for Kids 100 Top-Three Finishers Press Conference July 3, 2004 Thiago Medeiros, Paul Dana, Al Unser THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started with Paul Dana. Paul finished second in...
Menards Infiniti Pro Series
Aventis Racing for Kids 100
Top-Three Finishers Press Conference
July 3, 2004
Thiago Medeiros, Paul Dana, Al Unser
THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started with Paul Dana. Paul finished second in today's race. It's your career-best Menards Infiniti Pro Series finish. You and Thiago (Medeiros) were racing pretty hard there at the end. I think with two laps to go, you were just about neck and neck. What are you thinking at that point?
PAUL DANA: Well, Thiago is on a roll here, and I really wanted to break it. You know, we led at Homestead, the season opener, qualified on the pole, and we had some bad luck on the race that took us out. So I kind of feel like my first win is right around the corner here and we haven't gotten it done.
I really wanted it. I thought I had it there, and it just didn't carry around the whole lap. He got back ahead. And I actually thought I had it done when Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) was there. I wasn't sure why Arie was a lap down. Him being Thiago's teammate, I wasn't sure what was going to go on there.
I think I was a little bit too conservative. I gave him a tiny bit of room. It wasn't enough. I thought I still had him peeled against Thiago, because Thiago was running around pretty slow -- I mean Arie -- and Thiago just kind of like juked into the gap. My brother was a spotter. He goes, "Inside." I kind of gave him another two inches or whatever it was.
Thiago is a very fierce competitor. He's going to take it. He made it three-wide there in three. I think I had an opportunity there to kind of peel him behind Arie, and I probably should have had it done. But if "ifs" and "buts" won races, I'd probably be world champion.
THE MODERATOR: What are you thinking at that point? Are you thinking for the win?
PAUL DANA: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Take us through the process.
PAUL DANA: Your right foot never moves. The car had a lot of under steer. It was kind of pushed too loose, so it's kind of moving around behind him. But he's not having that problem because he's in the lead. You're just trying for everything you can. It just wasn't going to happen today.
Q: Talk a little bit about Al Unser?
PAUL DANA: Pretty impressed with his run for the first time out. I think I coached a guy that ran in Skip Barber against him. I'm not sure what he's done since. I think he went straight up to this. It's a big step for him. He's doing real well. He drove clean. Impressive run for (Al) his first time out.
Q: Would you have been able to do anything different those last two laps, if the No. 5 car wasn't there at the end?
PAUL DANA: Well, I actually got a run -- I can't remember exactly, but at one point I was alongside Thiago in Turn 1 and 2, just on a normal run I got, without the benefit of the back marker. I got it on the outside of him, and I think that probably would have been the case there in the last two laps.
But, you know, whether or not it was ever going to stick, we'll never know now, so.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Al Unser. Al, your first career Menards Infiniti Pro Series race, finished third. Congratulations.
AL UNSER: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: You were racing behind these two guys who were going pretty hard at it. You've got to think you had a shot.
AL UNSER: Yeah, you know, we really fit well with the series, came in here and were able to run third place. I think we got the fastest lap of the race, being in a big tow behind those two, I was able to catch back up to them. So that's one thing I had in mind.
Q: Were you worried that Arie was going to block you?
PAUL DANA: Yeah, I didn't know. You never know. I guess the thought entered my mind, let's put it that way. But he stayed on the bottom. He played it clean, so.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Paul. Congratulations on your best career finish.
PAUL DANA: Thank you.
Q: You were running consistently in the 187's (mph), closing that gap with 10 or 15 laps to go. Did you get a draft? What kind of line were you running at the end of the race to close the gap?
AL UNSER: A little bit of both. We were running a different line through the corners so I could get enough grip and trying to make him as smooth as I can. We had a little bit of push in the car, so the smoother I could do the turns, the better we were. We weren't scrubbing any of the speed off.
On the straightaways, I was trying to follow where they were. They were pretty far ahead of me, probably almost the whole straightaway, at the beginning of that. I was able to probably just do a little bit of drafting, then that sucked me right back up to them.
Q: Between your dad (Al Unser Jr.) and your grandfather (Al Unser Sr.), you have the best two teachers that any driver could have. Talk a little bit if you tapped into their knowledge?
AL UNSER: Well, you know, my dad was helping me out with the Western Union Speed Team this race, so we were getting after it. I did talk to my grandpa a few times just on line, a little bit on drafting. Since we didn't get much time because of the rain yesterday, we really spent the time learning how to draft this morning, and mostly during the race.
There's so many other people around here, you know, there's JR (Johnny Rutherford). I can tap into his mind. I was talking to Robbie Buhl. I got some good information off Ed Carpenter, since he ran the series last year. He was a big help, telling me I needed to leave a wing out. He liked the high side last year - if you watched last year's race. I was more liking the low side this year. I couldn't run the high line - only to pass. By the time I was midway through the corner, I was able to go back down the line.
Q: What were you doing in the final 10 laps to try to move to the front?
AL UNSER: Yeah, I was watching his (Paul Dana's) line through (Turns) 1 and 2 because you really got to set up your pass as far as the drafting. You've got to really set it up. So in one and two, he would enter low, then he would end up high. So I was entering high and ending up low. So as we crossed air or as I got under his air, it would really upset my car, get a big push, I'd have to get out of it.
Finally one lap I just set him up perfect, kind of guessing that he was going to do that same strategy, and was able to just enter high, just give it a little bit of lift as I crossed his air, then got back on it as I got down on the inside. That gave me a big shot down the back straightaway.
Then we popped underneath him. I still had a car length. Then right before the turn, he just gave a little wiggle. I'm not sure if he saw me or if he got some bad news from his spotter or if they had some communication breakdown or something.
But, you know, we did end up going under the white line a little bit there into the entry of three. But, you know, he apologized to me after the race, that he didn't see me. And, you know, we were able to bring the car home still.
Q: Can you talk about what expectations you had coming in?
AL UNSER: Well, we did some testing. I did my rookie tests with Sam Schmidt on June 7th, and then was at Milwaukee for the series test with Duesenberg. Then we did another test in Nashville, same with Western Union Speed Team.
Coming into this event, I wanted to do really well. My main focus today was to bring home the car. So it's rolling back on the truck, which is the best part. And I did finish well. I knew if we could bring home the car, that we would be a contender. I didn't think I'd have fastest lap of the race. But, you know, so be it. I'm happy.
Q: Did you talk to your dad during the race?
AL UNSER: No, I didn't have my dad talking to me at all. I had my spotter talking to me.
Q: With your dad retiring, do you feel the spotlight more on you?
AL UNSER: Sure, a little bit. You know, we are the last Unser left in open-wheel racing. I'm sure a little bit more eyes started to focus on me.
But the timing was actually quite surprising. I wasn't really expecting him to retire. I was expecting to come into the (Menards) Infiniti Pro Series and still have him running with me at the same weekend in the IRL.
So it was definitely a surprise, and I do feel a little bit more scrutiny and pressure. But we were still able to perform. That's about it.
Q: Is it hard for you to think of your dad not driving a race car any more?
AL UNSER: A little, you know. I did want to race with him in a competitive area. But we still will be able to race our snowmobiles every winter, just as we always have as I've been growing up. So it is a little hard to think that he's not racing. But I think it's a big lift of pressure off of his shoulders. He wasn't having any fun any more.
THE MODERATOR: Al Unser, congratulations. Thanks for coming in.
Thiago Medeiros has joined us. He finished the race first. It's his third win this season and his fourth career Menards Infiniti Pro Series win overall. It's also the second race this year where you've led from start to finish.
Comment on the final 10 laps or so. You and Paul Dana were going at it pretty hard.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, we didn't have the best car setup today. The wind was blowing really hard in the beginning of the race. I felt a big push on my car. I was trying to work a lot with the rear bars and rear jack because I knew I didn't have the best car for today.
And the truck rubber changed the balance that we thought we could run during the warm-up. They had the truck race before our race. That changed the track a lot. Different rubber and everything. The car was moving around a lot.
The last 10 laps, I mean, I was just trying to do my best and save the tires because I knew my car wasn't the best one. But I think I did as good as I can get. I just tried to do my best, drive the car really smooth and give him enough room. I just took a look in my mirrors, watching if he would try to get a run on me. I think I got the bottom of the track, was a better line, just keep it low.
Q: Was there any point in the race where you just knew you were going to win this, no one was going to pass you at all?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Not until I crossed the finish line (laughter). No, no, not until I crossed the finish line. He almost got a run on me from the outside on the back straight, between turn two and turn three. He almost overtook me. We were really close to be side-by-side.
But, I mean, the shortest line is the best way here. It was the same last year with Mark Taylor and Ed Carpenter. I watched the tape of the race from last year. I thought that was the best way to learn. Just be ready for the thing that we're not expecting. And that's always help.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and congratulations.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you.