Michigan 100 Infiniti Pro Series Top-three transcript July 27, 2003 Mark Taylor, Jeff Simmons, Thiago Medeiros MODERATOR: At this time we'll begin our press conference for the Michigan 100 Infiniti Pro Series race. With us right now is our ...
Infiniti Pro Series
July 27, 2003
Mark Taylor, Jeff Simmons, Thiago Medeiros
MODERATOR: At this time we'll begin our press conference for the Michigan 100 Infiniti Pro Series race. With us right now is our second-place finisher, Jeff Simmons. Jeff has finished in the top five in five of the last six races this season. He won the pole at Pikes Peak. Also with us is Thiago Medeiros. Thiago has six top-10 finishes in his seven starts this season and four top-five finishes. Gentlemen, congratulations on a strong race. Jeff, if we can get your comments on the race.
JEFF SIMMONS: The race basically was going exactly how I wanted. I got the start that I wanted and got right behind Arie (Luyendyk Jr.). I wanted to basically stay in second place there. If you can stay right with the guy, it's hard for a car to go around two cars. If you don't give him a place to kind of slot in, then you can easily hold that position. The problem started when we got the first caution. For some reason, my engine just seems to load up a lot under the cautions. You try to get going on the restart, and it just dies. I mean, it gets to about 7500 rpm and just won't pull any more. It stays right there for a whole lap. I lost a bunch of positions on that first restart. I got back to where I wanted to be in second place, stayed there until the end of the race. Then we got that other caution. I just couldn't do anything on the restart because the engine just kind of died again. I had the distance that I wanted to get a nice run on Taylor. It just wouldn't pull. I was really fortunate to hold on to second place with Thiago coming. I wasn't sure if we had it. I thought the whole way to the line, I was like, 'I got it, I got it, I got it, I got it.' We got there, I was like, 'I don't know if we got it.' (Laughter). It was a good race. Can't seem to break through. We're doing everything right. A little frustrating not to be able to challenge on that last lap.
MODERATOR: Thiago, you started today's event from the fifth spot, finished third. Tell us about your run.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: It's my first season here on ovals. I'm still learning. I had some problems with the team, communication problems, because the time was very short, and I couldn't set up the car. Here, we had a lot of time to set up the car, can talk a lot about the cars, about my feelings and everything. We had a very good car for the race. I was very confident. I was just following the pace of my spotter. Before the race, I spoke with some Brazilian drivers, Tony (Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves). He gave me some tricks. Well, it was very good for me. I was trying to overtake Jeff. We finished very close, but I couldn't. I'm very happy. Still second in the championship is very important for me. Just keep working for the next one.
Q: On the restart, you said you had problems with the engine loading. Arie had to back off when he got up to the pace car. Were you having to back off, also?
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, I mean, he was real close to it. I didn't have to slow down, really. I got a good start. The engine has just been loading up on the restarts. It happened to us at Indy, too. They had been all right on the shorter tracks, so I don't know why it's happened again. It happened both times. You know, I didn't have to back off. Obviously, on the last one, you know, Taylor had plenty of room to the car ahead, as well. That's why Taylor was able to drive right by both of us. Arie must not have got a very good start and mine just kind of died, so (laughter). Q: How close were either of you to the first incident?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Less than one car for me. I was blocked behind those guys.
JEFF SIMMONS: I didn't really see it. It was behind me. I think it was probably only a couple cars behind me, though. Q: What did Mark have going for him that allowed him to stay in front? What would it take to get ahead of him?
JEFF SIMMONS: I probably could have passed him. I didn't want to because when you're out front, you know, you're kind of at the mercy of the pack. The way the race worked out, it worked out for him. If we didn't have that engine problem, I think we would have got him on the last lap because I know I had guys behind me that were willing to push me ahead. But my plan for the whole race was just to get into second place and stay there. Casey Mears kind of made that famous here a few years ago. He would get into second place, then he would stay there the whole race, then just try to take a shot on the last lap. That's what my plan was. It just didn't work out for us. Q: The middle of the race, is it tense, fun? What is it like?
JEFF SIMMONS: I think it's more tense, really, than fun. I think because you've got guys all around you trying to make moves on you. Especially when I was in second, I had guys going, you know, trying to make moves on both sides. I was really just trying to protect that position. Whenever any of them went low and stuck it in down there into one or three, I really had to give them a lot of room because I knew they were going to push up. Those were sort of a little bit reckless moves, forcing me to give them a lot of room. Just trying to protect yourself the whole time really.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I was trying to keep on the bottom with my car, because it's the fast line. A lot of guys could overtake me from the outside line. They find some gaps in front of me. After this, I saw what they did, trying to make the same movements to keep it up, keep it up, keep it up. Well, it was very fun. I enjoy it. Q: On both restarts, seemed like Taylor would pull away from you. Was that because of your engine problem or something else?
JEFF SIMMONS: I mean, we know Taylor has a strong car, obviously a good motor, because he's been qualifying up front on the big tracks all year. But it was mainly the engine problem that I had. I wasn't sure on the first restart when he drove by Arie, as well, I thought, 'He's got it geared real well for the restarts, maybe.' But on that last restart, you know, I was OK until it got to that 7500 (rpm), then it just died on me, and he just drove away. If it had pulled, we would have been fine.
MODERATOR: Anything else for Jeff or Thiago? Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations on a strong performance. With us at this time is the winner of the Infiniti Pro Series Michigan 100, Mark Taylor, with Panther Racing. He started today's event in seventh place. He is our series points leader and has finished in the top five in each of his seven starts, including five victories this season. He has led laps in six of our seven Infiniti Pro Series races this year, including going flag-to-flag at Phoenix and Nashville. Mark, congratulations on another strong run. Tell us about your day.
MARK TAYLOR: Today was good. Yesterday we were qualifying, we finished seventh. We ran a race gear rather than a qualifying gear, maybe a bit too long for the conditions yesterday. From the word 'go' we were able -- it was fairly quick. The car felt good all the way through. I was able to run the outside line. As long as I could get a little bit of a tow, just get the speed up, after a few laps, I felt I could run to the front. We got up to third in a very quick time. From that point on, it was just to do with the restarts. Unfortunately, there was a big accident, took a long time to clear up. I hope both drivers are all right. That's the main thing. It was good of the crews to take the time to make sure everything was right, as well as get the debris off. It stopped the race for almost half the time. Just made the tires cool down. It was almost a new race again. From that third position, we were able to get a really good restart, pull it out front. I think the gearing was good in our car. I think, well, Jeff said they had a few problems with the engine on the restart. I think Arie, he must have had the same. He was away, and he seemed to slow down as he was changing into maybe fourth or even later than that. It was quite strange. I surprised myself when I was able to take the lead on that first restart. From that point on, I felt confident. We were able to run the inside line. Just able to move it up the track a little bit coming out of the corners and going into the corners, just make sure no one got down the inside of me.
MODERATOR: Questions for Mark Taylor. Q: The first crash, had you already gotten ahead of it?
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah. I was in third when that yellow came out. Probably a bit fortunate. It looked like a big accident; quite a few cars involved. The thought was to try and get out of the big block of cars that were going to end up being just behind the leaders. I felt the leaders might get away from us if I sat back in seventh or eighth too long. It was important to close that gap as quickly as possible. Then that's when the real games begin, when you get up to the front. I felt that Jeff, we would have had a decent race if it had gone through to the end after that. Q: After you had such a great restart on the first caution, were you very confident on the second, "I can do this again"?
MARK TAYLOR: Absolutely. Yeah, especially with one or two laps to go. After the first restart, I actually started in third, it took them it felt like 10 laps - probably less than that - but it felt like it took them a very long time for them to catch back up to me. Even though when they got closer, they did pull in very quickly. But I felt, one or two laps to go, if I get a decent lead, they'll be fighting between themselves, they're not going to be helping each other, which is what I thought they did on the first restart. Once they all got into line, they'll just catch me up.
This has rapidly turned into a Mark Taylor Benefit Society for you this year. Did you have any expectations of doing this well?
MARK TAYLOR: I knew that I would have a great car, and that is the main reason I'm able to do it, with such consistency. Without those guys, I wouldn't be able to get these results. The car could break quite easily. I wouldn't have the confidence in the cars on the ovals. With my experience, it's very difficult to gain the confidence. You have to work hard to do that. The important thing that they've done for me is give me that confidence, make sure that I can go from race to race doing this, winning all the time.
On the first restart, was it your plan to take both of them or did it just kind of open up and you said, 'Heck, I've got to go for it?'
MARK TAYLOR: Well, it just opened up. I thought I would just run behind them and see how Jeff was feeling. If he felt like he would be sat behind in second, follow Arie around, I'd just try and get a bit of a tow, either try and sneak down the inside of him if it looked like he was going to have to run up a bit higher, maybe go around the outside if I felt we had the right gearing and I was running quick enough. It's tough to know exactly what was going to happen. It did take me by surprise. But I'm not going to throw it away. They gave me such a good opportunity to get into the lead, I couldn't do anything about it, almost (laughter).
Is it like 'Yippee'? What is it like in a moment like that in a race, it looked so easy for a minute?
MARK TAYLOR: Well, I heard Jeff, I thought he hit the limiter, but maybe it was just the engine. I thought, 'Oh, good, I've got second. Now I can just sit behind Arie, close in behind him and play with him a little bit, and hopefully, toward the end of the race, be able to snatch the win from him.' I thought I went past him quicker than I did with Jeff. I was surprised. It was almost like he hit the brakes; he was going too slow. It just gave me that advantage. I must have had 10-car lengths, something like that. Almost broke the tow. I think if they had been fighting a little bit more behind me, I think I would have got away and extended the lead. It's just a little bit difficult with the gears I have in. I mean, you can't run away on your own because the group behind picks up speed quite quickly. You have to be in that group to be able to be able to get to those speeds.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark. Congratulations on your victory. Best of luck in two weeks at Gateway.
MARK TAYLOR: Thank you.