IRL Weekly Teleconference Feb. 24, 2004 With Helio Castroneves and Thiago Medeiros MODERATOR: We'd now like to welcome Thiago Medeiros, Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver, who finished fourth in last year's points championship. MODERATOR: ...
IRL Weekly Teleconference
Feb. 24, 2004
With Helio Castroneves and Thiago Medeiros
MODERATOR: We'd now like to welcome Thiago Medeiros, Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver, who finished fourth in last year's points championship.
MODERATOR: Thiago won his first race at Texas Motor Speedway last October and has put up the quickest times in the two Open Tests earlier this year at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. Thank you for joining us today. Give us your thoughts as you get ready for the 2004 season at Homestead-Miami.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I'm very excited waiting for the season to get started. I'm very happy with the results we got over both tests. My first contact with the team (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) was last year when we were waiting to test at Nashville and then at Phoenix. I felt very comfortable with those tests, and because of the good results we got, I signed with them for this year. We also got very good results at the Open Tests in the preseason and I'm very confident for the first race of the season in Miami.
Q: How important was it for to you get that first win last season at Texas?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Oh, it was very important for me. I was fighting so hard all season, and I missed some opportunities to get my first oval-racing win at Homestead last year. I made the pole and then I finished second because I made a mistake during the race. Then I finished second at Phoenix in my second race. Most important for me was the last race of the season because after that, everybody was talking about my win. It made me feel very happy and very strong for this season, too.
Q: In the first two years of the Pro Series, the winner of the opening race ended up winning the championship. How important is it to get off to a quick start in the series?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Last year, Miami was very important because it was kind of a "follow-the-leader" race. Now they've changed the track, and it's going to be like Chicago. Like Helio (Castroneves) said, we're going to be more like the Chicago and Kansas races. The race is going to be very important for everyone because everybody is going to be fighting for the lead. There are going to be a lot of cars working to get inside and outside, and they are going to try to do their best and try to hold the lead.
Q: What are your thoughts about moving up to the IndyCar Series? Is it something that you'd like to accomplish in the near future; are there plans maybe in the next couple of years?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Maybe. It depends on the results that we get. For sure, we're going to try to step up next year. My manager, Fernando (Avallone), is going to be working hard to do this, and I am going to try to do my best for this year. We are going to have good results. For sure, it's going to be easy for us to step up to the IndyCar Series next year. I hope that we can do a good job this year, and that more guys will step up for this season because it will be very good to improve the series.
Q: Do you know where your fire to drive comes from and what you like best about your job?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: When I'm inside the cockpit wearing my helmet, I feel very confident and I forget about a lot of things. I'm just trying to do my best. I learn a lot. The first thing, I'm still learning English here. We have very strong championships in Brazil and first I learned everything in my country. It was easier to learn everything in my language and then come to the U.S. almost ready to step up to the big series.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I like racing. It doesn't matter where I'm going to be, I'm going to try to do my best and try to get good results and try to get wins.
Q: I wanted to ask you about moving over to Sam Schmidt Motorsports this year and what difference it makes in terms of engineering and also having a good teammate like Arie Luyendyk Jr?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I don't have any problems with Arie because we are close friends. He was a guy that made my first test with me in 2001. I'm very happy working with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Now I have my engineer (Tim Neff) and my crew chief (Chris Griffis), those guys, they are wonderful. We have a very good feel inside the team, and they make me feel very confident. I feel very comfortable to do my job and do my best and get good results with them.
Q: What's it like to be working with Arie?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Oh, he is a very good guy. It's better that you have two good drivers on the same team because we have different driving styles and we can compare the data. I have a lot to learn with him. Last year was my first year to learn about curves and oval tracks, and at some tracks, it was hard for me, and I just had to follow someone. Arie was a good guy. He's a very experienced driver, too, and he taught me some things. I saw his line sometimes, and he gave me some help for some shorter tracks, like Phoenix, and those were tracks I followed him last year. I found the right place to be on the corners, and that helped me a lot.
Q: I wanted to ask, you know, Helio was on earlier, and Gil de Ferran, of course, and the success they have had, have you been inspired by what they can do in America, and even going back to (Emerson) Fittipaldi, do these guys inspire you to equal what they have accomplished?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I think that everybody has a dream to be driving in the IndyCar Series now. It's getting harder for everyone because there's a lot more driver talent than money. Those guys chose America because it's a very nice place to be. They have a good quality of life. They can do whatever they really like to do. And when we are driving, it doesn't matter where we are, we have to find a seat and try to do our best. We are trying to find a seat and do our best. It doesn't matter where you are.
Q: Last year, your one really poor race was the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. You had an accident there. Is that one you aspire to do better in this year?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: For sure, because Indianapolis races are important for all drivers. I was really very surprised with the track situation. It's completely different than the other tracks. It's not like only driving ovals, but they have a lot of very long straightaways, and then the corners come very fast, and then you have to turn 90 degrees to the left. It was a very good experience for me. I learned a lot last year. This year, I'm just trying to keep learning and do my best. But it's going to be a lot easier.
Q: You've been away from home for so long, what do you do for fun between races when you're stuck here in Indianapolis?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I'm working out every day. I'm going out sometimes. Indy is a nice place. It has a lot of entertainment and restaurants. I have some good friends I go out with. I have a PlayStation, and a lot of times I spend two hours, three hours, four hours playing games. I've tried to make some friends here because I left my family and my parents, everything, to be here, to be here to do the things I most like to do, but sometimes it's hard. I feel lonely, but I'm here because I want to be, and I want to be a professional driver. And, well, I hope to get a seat next year in the IndyCar Series.
Q: You spent the entire winter in Indianapolis this year, right?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yes, it was the first time I've driven in the snow. It was fun for me.
Q: That's my question. It's tough on a guy from Brazil. Tell me about your driving skills in the snow and ice.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Don't ask me that. (Laughing) Well, it was very fun, you know. I remember sometimes when I was driving road courses and it's very slippery track. I remember the track is very slippery, very dangerous for all the drivers in Indiana, not like professional drivers, but they have to be very careful about everything. A lot of places, because it's wet, it becomes ice, and everywhere you have to be very careful. But I like it. It was hard, but I like the Indiana weather. It was fun, the snow here.