IRL Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100 March 22, 2003, Phoenix International Raceway Top three press conference: Mark Taylor, Thiago Medeiros, Tony Ave Moderator: We'd like to introduce the top-three finishers of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series ...
IRL Infiniti Pro Series
March 22, 2003, Phoenix International Raceway
Top three press conference: Mark Taylor, Thiago Medeiros, Tony Ave
Moderator: We'd like to introduce the top-three finishers of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100. Our winner today, his second Infiniti Pro Series win in as many starts, is Mark Taylor. Second place, also the runner-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Thiago Medeiros. In third place today is Tony Ave. I guess for starters, let's get a quick comment from our winner, Mark Taylor. Your second Infiniti Pro Series race, you led wire to wire today. Tell us about it.
Mark Taylor: It all started in qualifying. I had a great car for qualifying. I was able to put it on the pole. That's the main thing around here. It's a very challenging track. Anyone who has clean air in front of them has a huge advantage as far as grip is concerned. It was important for me to get pole yesterday, and it was important for me to keep the lead of the race as much as I could today. I was able to keep the car steady, keep the tires nice and steady, as well, just concentrate on my lap times, bring it through for the win. I was really happy with the car, no problems whatsoever, hardly had to change the setup as I was going around with the weight jacker. Car was actually perfect.
Moderator: Thiago, second-place finish again. You started further back in the field. You were on the pole at Homestead-Miami. Had to work through a bit of traffic. Tell us about your drive.
Thiago Medeiros: I'm very happy. Congratulations for anybody from Genoa team. We had problems to find a good setup in the beginning of this weekend. We didn't have a good qualifying. It was a pretty fun race. We found a good setup in the warm-up. I'm very happy because we start on the back and finish in the second. Is a great result here.
Moderator: And, Tony, to come to the team this week, get a podium finish, has to be very satisfying for you.
Tony Ave: Certainly is. It's all down really to the Hemelgarn team. I made sort of an uncharacteristic mistake on Friday, set us back, we missed a bunch of laps. Had we not done that, we'd be in much better shape. But, hey, I really have to thank Ron Hemelgarn, Roger Johnson, Lee Kunzman, the Fikes, everybody that gave me the chance to drive it. It was a lot of fun. The guys did an excellent job. We just got way too tight. I know what we would have done to fix that, but we didn't get enough laps during the weekend. These guys did a great job. Panther obviously has their act together. I know Thomas Knapp very well. I knew the guys in front of me were going to have solid cars. I drove the thing as hard as we could go, and that's where we ended up.
Moderator: We'd like to take questions from our media.
Q: Pretty warm racetrack out there. There were several incidents on the track. Tell us what it was like. You were working through traffic, you had to navigate through.
Taylor: Yeah, the first yellow was pretty early on. I think it was just because of the cold tires and everything. Ended up having the problem with it. When that went away fairly quickly, the main problem with the race was the oil down about, what, 32, 36 laps into it. Oil all the way around the track. Very difficult to drive through. I felt that I was struggling with it. I'm sure that everyone else was finding it hard, as well, just not knowing how the car feels. It only took a few laps to clear it up, but it's very important after a restart to be very quick. Luckily, I was able to keep the lead and not lose that advantage because that is a huge advantage. I think that was the key part of the race for me.
Q: Second race, second victory. You're the team to beat early in the standings. You have the target on your back. Is that a position you want to be in, knowing everyone is shooting for you?
Taylor: Absolutely. I would have taken two wins in two races. With my knowledge of ovals, you know that you're learning all the way through, and you're going to get quicker and quicker. The team are learning with the car. That's only their second race with the car, as well. It just shows what a great team Panther are, that they're able to get a car out of the box and make it as good as it is at the moment.
Q: Mark, first time to drive at Phoenix International, how challenging a track is it?
Taylor: We came here in December, my first time actually in the car ever. It was a really challenging place as far as first time in the car. It took me a fairly long time. I have a lot of experience on road racing in Formula 3, Formula Ford. I was expecting to take to it fairly quickly. It took me the full two days to even get down to a respectful time. Yeah, it's very challenging. The track changes through the day because of the heat. It starts off very cold; the car feels very good. As the day goes on, you're losing downforce, and the car is starting to slide away from you. (Turns) 1 and 2 are very tight. (Turns) 3 and 4, exactly the same, very tricky corner, you're sliding through there. If the car is absolutely perfect, you can go flat through there. It's only a case of now and then.
Q: Can you go flat around the corners at Phoenix International?
Taylor: Through Turns 3 and 4, yeah. Turns 1 and 2, I don't know. I haven't yet (laughter). I'm sure that some people have tried it, but I doubt it very much. It's very close when the car is absolutely perfect, and it's a cold day. But days like this, the most important thing is the consistency through the laps, being able to make sure that you can do that same time again and again and again through the race. That was the key for me.
Q: Thiago, your second race, another strong finish. Tell us about the Genoa Racing team. Obviously a lot of confidence in them, the car they can give you.
Medeiros: My first contact was in December last year. I was not here in the beginning of the preseason, Test in the West. We just had a short time to find a good setup during the race and the qualifying. We just find a good setup to make the race. I found a lot of opportunity of overtaking. I'm happy because I have a lot of experience to make a good car for the weekend.
Q: Tony, tell us the mindset, the preparation you have to do mentally to come get in a car, really a relatively short amount of laps you have to prepare, but yet you go out and race, finish on podium.
Ave: Well, for me, I drive something different it seems like every week lately. In this case, with such a good team, really, you just get to know the guys. I already knew Lee Kunzman, a lot of the guys. You're comfortable with the stuff. You know when you leave the pit lane, it's really good. I sit down before I roll out and say, "I'm going to figure this out in about 12 laps, come in and see if we can alter the car." As long as you don't let anything distract that, you can be focused. If you let other people tell you how you should be learning, you know yourself better than anybody else does, I stick to my own program. It worked out.
Moderator: Gentlemen, thank you.