IPS: Michigan: Top-three finishers press conference

Menards Infiniti Pro Series Paramount Health Insurance 100 August 1, 2004 P.J. Chesson Thiago Medeiros Al Unser MODERATOR: At this time we're joined by our second- and third-place finishers, Thiago Medeiros and Al Unser. Thiago, why don't we...

Menards Infiniti Pro Series
Paramount Health Insurance 100
August 1, 2004

P.J. Chesson
Thiago Medeiros
Al Unser

MODERATOR: At this time we're joined by our second- and third-place finishers, Thiago Medeiros and Al Unser.

Thiago, why don't we start with you. Tell us about your day.

THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, I did a great start. I was just taking my time. I knew that my car was really strong in the draft, and I could get the lead in the early laps. I was just driving my car around. The team gave me a great car. I was taking my time, trying to save the tires. It was really good.

And then after the middle of the race, like 20 laps to go, I started to feel the car go really loose. I thought it was wind. But we found a problem in the car right now.

It was OK. I mean, I did a good job today. I'm happy I could say I did my best today. I'm still leading the championship. I think I did my best. That's how I did in the championships. You can't win all the races.

I was just smart to get some points. It wasn't our favorite track here. We're ready for the next one, Kentucky.

MODERATOR: Al, how about your day?

AL UNSER: My day went all right. You know, we didn't have the best start. I think we had the wrong gear for drafting. I was on the rev limiter a little bit. Most of the time, whenever I would catch up to Thiago and P.J. (Chesson), as soon as I would get them, the rev limiter would start going off. The car did lose a little bit of handling. I think that's just tire wear, you know.

At the beginning, it was a little push, then it went neutral toward the middle of the race. I was starting to catch him. Toward the end of the race, just had a loose car.

Q: What happened at that one point in the race where it seemed like you guys touched?

THIAGO MEDEIROS: I don't think we touched. It was pretty close. My car started to get loose. I was trying to hold my line, but it was a little bit tough.

I tried to do my best. I gave him enough room. I knew what I was doing. I know I'm leading the championship, I won't do anything stupid. I'm just trying to get some points in this race here.

He did a good run. I'm really happy for him, too.

Q: Al, you've been coming here a long time, growing up with your family and all. What was it like to finally get out there and run in competition?

AL UNSER: You know, it was great. I mean, all these tracks that we're going to, minus some of the ones that are newer, I've always been to -- I've skated around this place. I said that yesterday in an interview. It was really nice.

I was just -- toward the end of the race, if you took a look at Thiago's right-rear (tire) when he came in, I'm surprised it didn't go. I was actually praying for that towards the end of the race (laughter).

You two were right neck and neck.

THIAGO MEDEIROS: I know my limit. That's how it is. You have to race, and you have to race hard.

AL UNSER: I'm really happy for P.J. Good to have a rookie on the podium.

Q: Thiago, you were sandwiched between two guys who this time just over a month ago were making their series debuts.

THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, they learn really quick. I'm really impressed of those guys (laughter). I know they already have enough experience to be here at this level. Al came from open-wheel series, and PJ is doing his third race.

AL UNSER: Sprint cars.

THIAGO MEDEIROS: Different driving styles. Seems like a strange way of driving (laughter). I haven't driven one yet.

Yeah, I mean, the big track, it's how it is, it's drafting, the car setup. They did a good job today. We didn't have the car to win, but we got enough points here. We still lead the championship comfortably. We just have to be smart right now and take care.

If you can't win the race, you just have to get some points.

Q: What is your favourite kind of track?

THIAGO MEDEIROS: I like short tracks because they're a driver's track, I like to drive the car, be on the edge all the time. I'm not saying I wasn't on the edge here because we were.

Just make me feel more comfortable in my performance and everything. Here it's a lot more about the car setup and drafting. I think I already have enough experience. I learned a lot last year with some drivers, and they moved up to the IRL (IndyCar Series), like (Ed) Carpenter, (Jeff) Simmons and (Mark) Taylor.

It's much easier when you're driving the second year in the big tracks. I think last year I had a big lesson from those guys.

Q: How did it feel the last 20 laps?

THIAGO MEDEIROS: My car changed a lot in the last 20 laps. I was trying to find a good rhythm behind him (Chesson) or ahead of him to be comfortable. I was trying to find different lines, trying to get a run on him the last couple laps.

But two laps before, I tried to get a run on him in (Turns) 3 and 4. My car was really loose. I mean, that's how it is. "Welcome to the Indy Racing League," side-by-side, wheel-by-wheel. It was exciting. I'm trying to do my best, so it was OK.

Q: Al, this is your fourth race. Top-five finish all four times out, your third third-place finish. Tell us about your last month and Pro Series experience.

AL UNSER: We just can't get past that third place. You know, I worked on my qualifying. We're able to do that, put myself on pole. Going into the next race, it's Kentucky, it's basically the same type of an idea where you just want to run on the white line for qualifying.

Getting more experience. As Thiago said, last year he got a lot of experience running with those guys on the big tracks, using the draft, and I think I'm still getting used to that. You know, if we had gotten -- had a little bit of a mistake yesterday getting out for warmup. My team made a bit of a mistake, but I still thank them for giving me a good car.

We weren't able to go out for warmup and run in the draft. I wasn't sure what it was going to do. So I made a couple changes to the car that I thought would be good for the draft. Turned out it wasn't exactly what I wanted. We went backwards a little bit.

But, you know, we've been nice and consistent. I don't know, I was 10th in the points coming into this, I don't know what I am now. For missing the first three, I think it's pretty good, it's not bad.

MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. We'll have P.J. shortly.

We are now joined by our race winner, P.J. Chesson, who made his Pro Series debut about four or five weeks ago. I might dare say that you're one happy dude at this point, P.J.

P.J. CHESSON: That's a fair assumption to make.

What an amazing day. Started out again the weekend, we had rain, missed a practice. Not real comfortable with the racetrack at first and the car moving around on the big track.

But the guys hung in there, and we worked on it, worked on it, worked on it like we did last weekend in Milwaukee. The guys all kept their heads in it - so did I. Got faster and faster and faster. I think we might have even gone faster in the end of the race than we did in the other practice before.

It just shows the steadfastness of the team that I'm with and also, I mean, what kind of team unloads -- runs their first race four races ago and comes out and parks in Victory Lane? Says a lot about the team and the guys there, my owner Kathryn (Nunn), Morris (Nunn), (chief mechanic) Butch (Winkle), (engineer) Brian (Welling), those guys. I mean, what a great operation.

MODERATOR: Questions for P.J.

P.J. CHESSON: How about, 'Why did I hit the wall on the way into Victory Lane (laughter)?'

Q: Seems like the end, you were saving a bit, three laps to go, you kind of took off. What was your strategy in the last five or ten laps?

P.J. CHESSON: The boys put a special set of right-rear tires on there. No.

The car was getting better, seemed like. It was getting freer and freer. The higher up on the track I went, the freer the car was, seemed like the more miles an hour we could make on the straightaway. It kind of all played into our hands, which was really good.

I saw Thiago. I couldn't run the low line at all. The car was really loose down there, wanting to wiggle around. I had to make Thiago go to the inside. I think he was wiggling around down there. I knew that.

I kept asking the spotter, 'How are we at the start/finish?' If we were going to come down to the wire, I wanted to have a nose on it, at least a line.

I think his car might have gone away a little bit in the end. It was good for us to be able to keep it on the high line.

Q: Why did you hit the wall on the way into Victory Lane?

P.J. CHESSON: Thank you. I'm not that great of a driver (laughter).

Q: How difficult were those last 20 laps? That was a pretty good show y'all put on.

P.J. CHESSON: It was pretty intense. It's comforting to know that you can run with a guy side by side. When you're kind of looking over peripherally, you can see he's leaving you the room. I went down into the first turn, he held me to the inside. My car didn't like it down there. He knew that.

I had a big wiggle, went up across the racetrack. I looked over, he was going up, too. He was obviously not only driving his car, but almost driving mine as well, leaving me the room I needed.

He's a great race-car driver, that Thiago. Al Unser, as well. We raced together. We left each other room. It's good to know you can run with guys and be safe about it.

Q: Are you planning on contributing toward that front wing (damage) with some of your prize money?

P.J. CHESSON: I don't know. We'll talk about that (laughter).

MODERATOR: That question comes from his team owner, by the way.

Q: As you were going back and forth there, I know you just talked about racing with the guys, but with the lack of a whole lot of superspeedway experience, what was it like just experiencing that for the first time?

P.J. CHESSON: Well, I don't think I've ever even seen a track this big until I drove in here three days ago.

A totally new experience. Everyone was telling me you're going to run side by side and nose to tail, the car is going to do weird things, you know, when you get a bunch of turbulence around you. I just kind of had to take their word for it and figure it out on my own.

As the race went on, I got more comfortable running behind Thiago and in front of Al or behind Al or alongside of Thiago or whatever. I guess over the course of 50 laps you kind of have to figure it out pretty quickly.

It's good. It makes it a lot easier when you have a good car and a fast car. I got to thank all the guys at Mo Nunn.

Q: Your short experience in the IPS series, give us your view on the series as a total, as a driver, the teams, things like that.

P.J. CHESSON: I think the series is a great series. I wasn't really a real IndyCar (Series) fan or a NASCAR fan. I was never really a fan. I was always kind of doing my own thing in the Sprint Car. Then I started looking, thinking about where I'd like to go and make my next step.

The Pro Series seemed like a great little series. You know, the cars are cool. They're very sophisticated. They go pretty fast. They run on great venues such as this one.

So it's a good little series, and there's some great little drivers that have come out -- they've come from different worlds than I have, not like the open-wheel, dirt short track world, but the karting world or the formula world or something like that. It's interesting to even communicate with those guys, their lingo is different. They use words like "slipstream" and "overtake". I'm like "blast 'em" and "on the inside". Different lingo.

It's been great. Roger Bailey is doing a great job promoting the series and working on it.

Q: Could you tell us a little about what you were doing the last couple of years for those of us who aren't familiar with you, where you've been, your road here.

P.J. CHESSON: World of Outlaw stuff on dirt. The first race I ever raced on pavement was at Kansas, and I spun out. Then I did it again and spun out, I spun out like three races in a row or something. Then I ran second at Milwaukee last weekend. So don't ask me how that works.

There's a little bit of a learning curve there - a lot of a learning curve. I told the guys when I first got in one of those cars, the only time I ever sat like that was when I was sitting in a lawn chair, drinking a beer on the beach.

It's a whole new world for me. I'm stoked about being here.

MODERATOR: Thank you, PJ. Congratulations.

P.J. CHESSON: Thank you.


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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Roger Bailey , P.J. Chesson , Mo Nunn , Thiago Medeiros