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INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 14, 2003
KENT JOHNSON: Good morning. I'd like to welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week of Tuesday, October 14. Today we'll visit with Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Thiago Medeiros as well as IRL IndyCar Champion, Scott Dixon. Our first guest is Thiago Medeiros. He is the driver of the No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara Infiniti Firestone for Genoa Racing. He led the final four laps of the 67-lap dreamerscandles.com at Texas Motor Speedway to record the first oval track win of his career this past Saturday. Thiago, good morning, and thanks for joining us today.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you very much for the opportunity with the teleconference.
KENT JOHNSON: First, congratulations on your win this past Saturday. Did you feel that you might have a chance to win when you were trailing Arie Luyendyk Jr, and Mark Taylor with just a handful of laps remaining?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yes. I had a very good car that I could run high, low, everywhere, but I was trying to find a partner to take off a little bit of drag of my car off and try to go to the front of the pack and waiting for the right moment to do that the last couple of laps.
KENT JOHNSON: Then you crossed the finish line. You reached down in your cockpit, you pulled out a Brazilian Flag. Did you know that you were going to win or did you carry that flag with you all year?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Throughout the year, I thought that I had so many chances during the season, but we had little problems. And sometimes I missed the opportunity to get my victories. My first being this season, and I always carry my Brazilian Flag with me and was just waiting for the opportunity to get my first win of the Series and show them where I came from, my country, and it is a big pleasure to represent my country here.
KENT JOHNSON: So you really felt it was just a matter of time until you took the checkered?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: It is very hard to say that because everybody was doing a good job. Everybody was very close and it was almost nothing between the first ten cars were inside one second only and I thought that I had a chance, but it was not very close, but just trying to keep working hard and waiting for the right moment to do a big shot.
KENT JOHNSON: You finished 4th in the Mendards Infiniti Pro Series standings. You had seven Top-5s and only 2D&Fs over the 12 events. How would you rate your run this year?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, it was my first year here in ovals. I am very proud to be here in this Series and I hope to be here next year and try to get some sponsors to be here. Completely different where I come from. I come from road courses and the Series is wonderful, a lot of kind of race, but I like it. Everybody runs very close, have a lot of competition with the other drivers. And my year was wonderful here. My first year with Genoa Racing, my first engineer here, he teach me a lot of things about ovals. I learned so many things and it is very important for my future.
KENT JOHNSON: Thiago, at this time, I'd like to open up our forum to the media. Just a reminder we'll do a complete transcript of this call. Let us open the forum for questions.
Q. Good morning, Thiago, congratulations.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you.
Q. I find it a little ironic that the first race you win comes after the first time that you led laps and also it's in a race that part of the name is dream, so it all just kind of worked out for you; didn't it?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yes. I was trying -- everybody was trying to pull the inside line and nobody give us the inside line because it's the better line to be. After I got the first place with the package and just keep low and it's a long way around, trying to do something. Jeff Simmons was trying to do something -- trying to pass me on the last lap, but he couldn't. I had a very good car that I could have run high, low, whatever way that I would be. Aaron Fike, who was leading the race, and after I got it, I just keep low and trying to be in the end of the race.
Q. Tell us about the heritage of Brazilian drivers, and, of course, Gil deFerran running his last race this past weekend. As a Brazilian, what does all of that mean?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Oh, Gil is a hero for me and I think also for all the other Brazilian drivers who want to come to the U.S. and join the American race. He did a very good job in the three years that he did in CART and in IRL, and he won the Champ Cars two times and now he almost won the Championship. He finishing second and he won the Indy 500. I am very proud for him because he did everything he -- it's a dream for everyone to win the 500, like he did this year and win the --have the two titles like he have.
Q. The heritage of the Brazilian drivers - and it goes back a long way - and the support that the Brazilian fans give to you guys, as a young driver, talk about how that helps you and what that does for you?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, I have dream like when I was a little child and I start to racing go-karts when I was eight years old and I had a very good school when I was racing go-karts in Brazil, and open wheels. We have a very difficult life to be a driver because the sponsors just looking for soccer, the most popular sport in our country. We have a very difficult lifestyle, the language is -- everything is hard and? I am living here in Indianapolis, my first year, with all my family and my friends and everything, but I am very proud to be here, learn here -- I am so about my English - I am still learning. It's my first year here and realize my dreams and maybe join there next year or the year after next year.
Q. Good luck.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you.
KENT JOHNSON: This was your first season of American oval track racing. Looking back on your 12 races, your test sessions, everything, tell us a little bit about, as a driver, what you have learned this year over the past season in the Pro Series.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: The year was wonderful for me. But beginning of this year was a little bit hard because we didn't have (inaudible) -- we start testing in the preseason and the preseason doing the testing in the last two years and I just made one test at Homestead before for our first race. I was very happy after I made my first four and finishing second my first Menards Infiniti Pro Series event. After that we didn't have so many tests because our budget was very restricted, and we were trying to get some deals and found some groups in Brazil who want to make some -- export some products here to sell in the U.S., but in the motor racing, racing cars, it's hard to develop the car without testing. A lot of drivers maybe so many testing and it's hard to develop the car, my performance, without testing. So I am very happy with the result finishing fourth my first year here and I know that I had a wonderful year just my family know how difficult it was this year for me. And next year, probably going to be easier for me because I know where I have been before and hopefully it will be better for us to get some better results.
KENT JOHNSON: As a driver, with the road course background, were there certain skills that maybe you possessed that you needed to fine-tune or certain skills that you had to develop that are just applicable to only driving in the ovals?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: When I was driving the road course I learned so many things about setup of the car. It was a very good school for me because here oval racing, first of all, you have to own the both sides. If you make a little mistake it becomes apparent very quickly. Unfortunately there's nothing you can do when you are going to hit the wall. I learned one thing in my life to drive on the limit of the car and not to overdrive on my limit. I am very proud to learn so many things about the cars and come here ready to be in a wonderful Series and make a wonderful job doing-- I didn't have any accidents this year. Well, I had a little accident but it was not my fault. But I am very -- I learned so many things to set up the car, it's completely different here in ovals, but those things that I learned before helped -- give me a lot of help and I had a very nice engineer Thomas Knapp. And I am very proud to work with him and with Genoa Racing this year because they teach me so many things which is very important for my future and my life.
Q. Now that the season is over here, do you have plans for next year, something to do in what we call the off-season, or how are you lined up for next year?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, I do. I have plans to be in this Series again for next year. And I am 21 years old, I have -- I think that I have more things to learn in ovals in the Light Series and maybe next year start to make some test in the IRL and be in the IRL in 2005.
Q. Will you be racing anyplace, other types of cars?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, I have a dream to be in the IRL, winning the 500, it's a dream for me. All those Brazilians drivers could do that like Emerson Fittipaldi opened the gates for us, and Gil this year, it's wonderful for us, and I think that I can do that. And just keep working hard and learning so many -- the most things that you can learn and working hard and I have a dream to be in the Championship in the IRL.
Q. Now that the season is over, I understand you will probably be being going to Brazil very soon, but what are your off-season plans?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Going back to Brazil to contact some sponsors in trying to get some to start testing early in the preseason year; maybe going to be back in November, or very early in January, and start making some testing very early to develop the car and the performance also.
Q. Thomas has a reputation of being a pretty tough guy to work with. How did you find working with him?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Well, I learned so many things this year. Sometimes you can't be aggressive. I think you have to learn without the situation that you have in your whole life. Sometimes he has his own way to do the things, but always -- I always give him my idea about what we should do on the car setup. I am sorry, sometimes it's hard for me to express. Thomas is a very nice engineer. He knows so many things about ovals. He really knows how to work and set up the car for the ovals. I never did some work with him in the road course, but he's a very nice engineer in ovals. I have nothing to say about him, he gave me a lot of help and teached me to many things this year and he's going to be very important for me next year and my future.
Q. He's going to come back next year, right?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Probably.
Q. Don't worry about your English, it's probably better than all of our Spanish.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: We speak Portuguese in Brazil.
KENT JOHNSON: Thiago, we thank you for joining us today. Congratulations on an outstanding performance this past Saturday. We look forward to being with you in the Indy Racing League next year.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you very much for the opportunity, KENT Johnson. Hopefully we'll be back here very soon and we'll keep in touch.
KENT JOHNSON: Looking forward to it, Thiago, thanks again. At this time I have an update on the status of Indy Car Series driver Kenny Brack who was injured during a late race incident at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Kenny remains in serious, but stable condition, at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas after having undergone surgery late Monday night. The surgery included an open fixation on the spinal fracture and the spinal fusion of the L -2, L-3 and L-4 vertebra. The surgical team was headed by Dr. Kevin Morrill, chief neurologist at Parkland Memorial Hospital. According to Dr. Morrill, Kenny's spine is stable. He's moving his legs and toes. And he wants to add that Kenny's conditioning as a world-class athlete is heeding him greatly in this situation. I know I speak for everyone, that we certainly wish Kenny the best in his recovery. With that, I'd now like to welcome IRL IndyCar Series Champion, Scott Dixon. Scott's currently in New York going through our Championship Celebration Proceedings. Scott, good morning, and thanks for joining us today.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you for having me.
KENT JOHNSON: Just as a brief background, Scott drives the No 9 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G -Force Toyota Firestone for Chip Ganassi Racing. He captured the IndyCar Series Championship with his second-place finish at the season ending Chevy 500 this past Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the 16-race season he registered five pole positions; nine front-row starting slots; three victories, and nine Top-5 finishes. Scott, looking at your accomplishments, you put together quite a season.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, definitely, I think Team Target has been a huge asset this year just with, you know, the innovation and the development that they have and that is how we stayed on top of things throughout the year. And every circuit we went to we were extremely competitive, always being the fastest in each session or for the pole position, and I think for a driver that is something that is very hard to find, you know, to be with a great team is a lot easier on myself, I think. I have been able to learn a lot, I think, you know, this year, basically from them. It is just going to be great to be back.
KENT JOHNSON: Heading into Sunday's season finale, you were one of five drivers with a mathematical chance of winning the Championship. As the race progressed your contenders seemed to fall back one-by-one. Were you or the team keeping tabs on where you stood or what was the mindset as the race progressed?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think with the race everybody was looking at the same thing - everybody was making sure they stayed up front. The good thing about it, I think the five drivers competing for the Championship raced the whole race, together, fighting it out, which there was no sort of mix-up in there with other people and things like that. I thought that was pretty cool, just knowing that it was going to come down to the end. It was unfortunate think with Helio and Tony when they touched, I think it would have been a superb race to the finish with probably the four of us. I don't know, it's the way it goes. You have got to take it as it comes. And you know, we have had plenty of those disappointing moments, I think, throughout the year. It's just time for them to have another one. I don't know. All and all, you know, it was kind of strange the way the end of the race finished, with the crash and things like that, but you know definitely everything went our way on Sunday.
KENT JOHNSON: Following the race on Sunday, you commented that Championships are meant to be difficult to win. Overall, how difficult was this Championship run for you? As you mentioned you were fast throughout the season.
SCOTT DIXON: We seemed to have problems just trying to finish these races. You know, we gave up a lot of, you know, I think three that you can look at quite easily that, you know, I think we would have won, but we weren't there at the end and we struggled on that for some reason, you know, whether it be some niggly little problem, or manufacturer's defect or something like that. I think, you know, some of the teams might have had problems in bouncing back, but that was the thing with Team Target, we always bounced back. And we -- the thing that kept us going was the speed. We knew that we can compete for the win every weekend.
KENT JOHNSON: Scott, at this time, I'd like to open our forum for questions from the media.
Q. When the morning started, can you go through the emotions of getting ready for this race? How different was it from every other race during the season?
SCOTT DIXON: I think there were a lot of emotions, more so than any other race. I think it was probably the same for each of the five drivers, just because there's the added stress, you knew that unfortunately it was coming down to this last race. Everybody worked so hard throughout the year for it to come down to, you know, a couple of hours was really hard, I thought. I actually, you know, tried to make it just like another race, not thinking too much about it. I think if we prepared enough, and, you know, did our best, that that's all you can do. And just got see how the cards play out. It was more difficult, I think, than any other race I have had just before, you know, the anticipation. I think no matter what, even if we didn't win, would have been a lot of weight off your shoulders just because the season was over and the lead-up for the three weeks, where we did nothing, you know, made it even worse. Just happy that it's over.
Q. In those last few laps as you guys circled under caution with the crash with your teammates and Kenny back, what was going through your mind at that moment and then when they declared it over, how do you celebrate or what was going through your mind?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. Like, you know, this year when we've had these small problems with the cars mechanically, on the yellow I am just -- those laps are so long, I am trying to think, well, I hope this thing doesn't break and then you start hearing little noises, you know, things like that. But I don't know, once we had done it, I just, you know, as I said before, I just felt so much lighter; all the pressure was gone. We'd accomplished what we'd wanted to. It was a very cool moment. It's a good feeling, that's for sure.
Q. By the way, what is the response in New Zealand?
SCOTT DIXON: It's huge down there, for sure. The phones aren't stopping. I don't know, it's front page of like three newspapers, lead story on every news program. We definitely got a lot of coverage.
Q. These races are all very exciting for the fans and the media. But are you totally sold on this concept now of oval track racing at these speeds, given what happened to Kenny and what could happen to anybody at any moment, it seems at the IRL kind of races?
SCOTT DIXON: It definitely stops and I think it makes everybody think, you know. The thing is you look at a crash like Kenny's, that was horrendous, and I am amazed he walked away from that. That just shows, I think how safe the cars are, you know, that that kind of thing was a bit of a freak accident. If it happened anywhere else on the circuit, you know, he probably would have probably jumped right out. But, I don't know, there's going to be plenty of people that knock us and things like that, but we all understand what we're doing. We love to race, and sometimes, you know, I think, as everybody does in life, there's consequences for what you do.
Q. You are enjoying the moment right now, I am sure. Congratulations to you.
SCOTT DIXON: Thanks.
Q. Does this affect your plans for next year or do you race in what we call the off-season? Do you take sometime off and get ready for next year?
SCOTT DIXON: To be honest, I don't know, we haven't really looked into it too much. I am still contracted with Team Target; very happy to be back with them next year. It doesn't really stop, to be honest. We have all this media stuff. And I think Tuesday take next week I am testing at the Indianapolis Speedway for Firestone and then at night I think I am flying to Orlando. Then I have another test. So it just carries on. I will get back to New Zealand. I think I am leaving around the 20th of December, and go back for Christmas and New Years. I think November I might go away and do something as well.
Q. Congratulations, Scott. I can't help to think when you started your career way back when -- not that far back for you -- did you ever see yourself winning a driver's Championship on an open-wheel Series on ovals and driving in America?
SCOTT DIXON: I probably wouldn't have picked it, definitely not. I wouldn't have picked it last year. You know, I think it was a hard move to come over to the IRL, with the all oval experience. But I don't know, it's one of those things and with motor sport, it is hard to determine what you are going to do from one day to the next. So definitely surprised, but totally enjoyed this year, you know, thoroughly. It was definitely an experience, and you know, life, I think, takes different steps for most people, but for myself and I think for a lot of the other drivers, they all come from great racing backgrounds, probably never thought they would be doing the same. I am sure you'd ask Tony and Helio and they'd say the same thing. I don't know. A lot of fun, I think, so far.
Q. If you can think back, reflect over your career thus far, what do you think has prepared you most for this type of racing? You made it look easy. Certainly I realize from listening to you, it wasn't easy, but with five poles and three victories and Top-5 finishes you seem to make it look easy.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, I think the team made it easier for me. I think every sort of class of racing, starting go-karts on a 7 and it all adds up, its experience. Everyday you are learning in this kind of racing, and I think the biggest turnaround point for me was joining Team Target and you know, midway through last year. And being with, you know, a first-grade team, you learn so much more, just from the R&D, the plans that they have for the future. And it's great to be with someone that is always looking forward. They are not looking back and they don't dwell on the down moments. They just keep moving forward. I think every year that you race you learn something and that's definitely the key to helping you get through. I think the biggest turning point, looking at Indy Lights, or something like that, the first time I was ever on an oval, I learned a lot those first couple of years.
Q. Regards to how you celebrated on Sunday night, did you get to go out with the guys, Tony Kanaan, and your other racing colleagues just to discuss how the race unfolded? How did you celebrate?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I didn't get back to the hotel 'til pretty late. Then ended up having dinner and stuff and -- because Gil had his retirement party at the same hotel. It got a little hectic. I ended up getting thrown in the Paul by Tony and Helio and all those guys. It was a lot of fun, especially for Gil, and it was a really good night.
Q. In terms of the events as the race ended, the horrific crash, as a driver, how do you keep event like that from affecting you and your ability to get back on the track again?
SCOTT DIXON: As I said just before, it's what we love to do. We know that, you know, that there's consequences like that. I have experienced it at the start of the year - not as horrific as Kenny's crash - but I crashed in Motegi pretty hard. It makes you think. Everybody's is human. You know, you go, is this the right thing, you know, but I think the cars are safe. People still walk away from these things. I don't know, it does make you think, but I think most of us just carry on.
Q. You talked about the three-week interval between Fontana and this race. How grinding was that, upsetting was that to just have to go through that and the buildup and all that?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, the first week you sort of relax, and you are like, oh, you know, it was good, you just got off a weekend of racing. The problem is the next couple of weeks, then you are talking to everybody and they keep asking you, you know, is the pressure getting to you, things like that. The drag-on was definitely big. I don't know, you just keep thinking about different scenarios and it was a difficult couple of weeks, I think, toward the end, just the anticipation, I would have loved to been straight off to California knowing to just get the thing over with. I think that's what everyone was interested in in having closure on the season.
Q. Saw a note on the internet somewhere that Chris Amon is saying that now you are ready for F-1. Do you have -- I know that you have mentioned before that that was a dream. But does it make it even more of a reality today?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think Championships are definitely, you know, something great to have on your bio. It's hard to say how that's going to affect the future, you know, be it Formula 1. I think, obviously, we are communicating with those teams. At the moment, probably not until the next week or something, we'll see if anything plays out on that sort of front end. But we'll keep working towards it, but it's all hearsay until we actually know what we're talking about.
Q. I would imagine that Paul may be there accepting your calls or returning your calls with a little more eagerness now that you have this on your resume?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I don't know, we have been doing a pretty good job all year. We have had great meetings with them, and Monza and the U.S. grand Prix, and things like that. We have always had communication with them and a lot of the guys are great people to talk to and things like that. They always return the call or they always call us, but yeah, I am sure, it definitely helps.
Q. When Penske came into the IRL, everyone was ready to give the next five Championships to them; certainly the first one or two. They haven't won yet. Does that talk about the competitiveness of racing in the IRL?
SCOTT DIXON: It does, for sure. I think, you know, Penske you know, is a great team. They have won the last three Indianapolis 500s, but I don't know, they just don't seem to be able to put it together with all the circuits, things like that. I think they have had a fairly consistent year. They just haven't been very fast. It does show that it is very tough and I am sure they are going to be trying very hard next year to make it up. I just think that the thing that's helped us this year is that we have been fast everywhere we have gone. That's a pretty hard thing to do.
Q. When you went from PacWest to Ganassi, your world literally changed, didn't it, you were sitting there wondering what is going to happen next and now within a year you are sitting with the Championship?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, joining Team Target was definitely, I think just from the knowledge and the experience that they have is -- it's kind of -- it definitely a good feeling to be involved in an organization like that, I think. It's just so much easier for the driver, I think, and it's just, I don't know, makes it a lot easier on you.
KENT JOHNSON: I know as part of your Championship obligations, you are in New York City today, I believe to do a taping with the David Letterman Show; is that correct ?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, that's later this afternoon. Just checking out New York at the moment.
KENT JOHNSON: Any thoughts going into Letterman tonight? Think he's going to pull anything crazy on you ?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know, I think we're meant to do a call with them shortly. I can't imagine, some of it will be, you know, a little bit of talk will be about Kenny's accident because of Dave being involved with that. It will be good.
KENT JOHNSON: Scott, we'll let you get back to your duties and obligations there. But congratulations on your Championship season and we certainly look forward to having you back on the circuit next year.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you very much.
KENT JOHNSON: That concludes today's teleconference. As a reminder we do a complete transcript of this call. Our next teleconference will be next Tuesday, October 21, noon eastern daylight time. As always, thank you for joining us today and we appreciate your coverage of the Indy Racing League.
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