Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Welcome, everyone, to the Indy Racing League's weekly teleconference. Today's teleconference features driver Thiago Medeiros from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and driver Townsend Bell from the IndyCar Series. Thiago joins us on the call first, while Townsend will join us in approximately 15 minutes. Thiago, thank you for joining us.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you. Thank you guys from the teleconference for giving me this opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: Thiago has dominated the Menards Infiniti Pro Series this year. He has led 316 out of 349 laps. Most importantly, he's translated that into four wins out of the five races, and has built a 96-point lead in the standings. And his four wins have come consecutively in the last four races, making him the first driver at any level in the IRL to accomplish such a feat. Thiago, you moved to the United States last year, raced in the Pro Series with some very good results, including a win in the season finale. As you came into this season, did you think you'd be able to dominate the field the way you have so far?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: No. Really wasn't part of what we were expecting. But I know when I move to Sam Schmidt Motorsport, I could be a lot more competitive and we could fight for a lot of wins to fight for the championship. That was our goal in the beginning of the season and still our goal. We want to get a championship pretty soon and then think about to move up to IRL next year.
THE MODERATOR: You've done well obviously in all types of tracks that we've raced at. You got your first win at Phoenix, which is relatively short, one mile and flat. Indianapolis, of course, has the long straightaways, and sharp turns. Kansas more highly bank. Nashville, the concrete surface. Is there a type of track that you think is easiest for you to drive on?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I like short tracks and tricky tracks. Nashville was one of those. I like some big tracks like Miami and Kansas. But, I mean, just make me more nervous because none of the (inaudible) are only about me. I mean, it's a completely different race because there are a lot of setups and everything. I confident in my crew and everything because they give me a great car all those race. But it's hard to say. You know, never know who is going to win that race until the last lap.
THE MODERATOR: So a racetrack like Milwaukee, being another track that's fairly short and not really steeply banked, it ought to be a pretty difficult place to race.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Yeah, for sure the bank, not a lot of bank. So we need a good baseline setup, great car for the weekend because is a pretty flat track, and the bank doesn't help the car turn. But I know that we tested before. We were quickest. I mean, I think we will have a great car at the start of the weekend so I'm looking forward.
THE MODERATOR: Saturday is your 22nd birthday. You're going to be going for your fifth straight pole position. That would be a pretty good way to celebrate your birthday, wouldn't it?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Oh, for sure. That's one of my strong goals in the weekend, you know, to give me a gift. And the biggest one would be if I could get the fifth win. So we just looking forward to Milwaukee because I want to give not only a present, but I want to keep winning, so that's our goal.
THE MODERATOR: Any other big plans this weekend or next away from the racetrack for your birthday?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: No. Maybe I'm going to call some friends and hang out on Saturday night to have a dinner somewhere. But, you know, nothing until late because we have a race the next day. We have to be focused on the race and not many attractive around.
THE MODERATOR: Your stretch of wins, the four in a row, is unprecedented in the IRL. Mark Taylor and Kenny Brack had won three in a row. What are your overall thoughts about being the first person to put four in a row together?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: My goal is doing the fifth. I mean, there is no secret. I think we put everything together this year. You know, we have a great engineer, a great crew, and I'm a good driver. If I can say, I'm a great driver, as well. But everything depends not only about me, but the team and the engineers. You have a really good communication and harmony inside the team that make everything go so well, that's the results we got, some excellent results in the last couple race.
THE MODERATOR: The Menards Infiniti Pro Series is designed to help young drivers move on to the IndyCar Series. I know that's definitely a goal of yours. What is the latest news on that front for you as you're looking for an opportunity to move up and run with the big cars?
THIAGO MEDEIROS: I think it will be easier when you get the championship because that's what happened with Anthony Foyt and Mark Taylor. I think those guys were ready to move up and they're doing a good job in IRL. I want to be the next one. I mean, when I came here, I saw many other Brazilian drivers come here and they were successful. Today they are here in America. I just want to be the next one and do the thing that I really like to do: racing.
THE MODERATOR: Thiago, thank you so much for joining us and good luck this weekend.
THIAGO MEDEIROS: Thank you. Thanks everybody on the conference call to give me this opportunity. Looking forward to Milwaukee and have a nice day, guys.
THE MODERATOR: Townsend, welcome to the call. Thank you for joining us. How are you doing today?
TOWNSEND BELL: Good. How are you?
THE MODERATOR: We're doing great. Townsend joined Panther Racing at the beginning of the month, got into the Dallara Chevrolet for the first time at Kansas Speedway and was able to qualify seventh. I know we've talked to you about it a couple times already, but can you give us a little recap about what you were doing when the call came from Panther, how the deal came together so quickly?
TOWNSEND BELL: I was in California sort of relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. John Barnes from the team called, asked me to come to Indy right away. I jumped on the plane, first available flight, and I've been here ever since.
THE MODERATOR: And obviously you didn't get a lot of practice time that weekend with all the rain that we had. But you must have felt fairly comfortable in the car right away to go out and qualify seventh.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, I mean, that's the key. The Panther guys do such a good job with the setup. It seems like we've been out three times now, two races, and a test at Michigan, and every time the car rolls off the truck, it's pretty much in the window straightaway. That gives a driver a lot of confidence. So it's made it really easy for me to get up to speed. I still have a lot of, you know, little nuances to learn, and that will come with a little more time. But I'm pretty happy with the way things are coming along so far.
THE MODERATOR: You obviously had a really strong performance down in Nashville, qualified 12th, then moved up to finish fifth. How did this weekend compare with that first weekend in a variety of ways? That first race, despite qualifying well, there were some problems with the car throughout the race. Compare the two weekends.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, I mean, the first weekend was a bit of a thrash because we only had three or four days to prepare. But the Panther guys were so organized, by the time I actually got to the track, we had really gotten the seat made and everything, was pretty comfortable with where we were. By the second race, I had had 500 miles under my belt from the Kansas event and, of course, the Michigan test. So when we got to Nashville, I felt we could start working on moving up the grid and working on performance.
THE MODERATOR: You turned in actually the best finish by the Chevrolet cars. I know the Chevys were up in Michigan recently testing there. What kind of gains are they making on the three-litre engine?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I mean, it's a work in progress, I know. I mean, everybody is working flat out, of course, to try to close the gap. It's not far off really. I mean, you could see in Nashville with a little luck we were able to run, you know, pretty competitive times and hang in there with the top guys, with Toyota and Honda cars. I think it's very close. If we can just get a bit more, maybe we could win one of these things.
THE MODERATOR: Now, when you come into a series in the middle of a season like you have here, I am imagining there aren't a lot of pressures on you regarding the point standings, making a charge for the leaders and that. What kind of expectations and pressures do you put on yourself for the rest of the season?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I mean, I think everybody's pretty realistic. Obviously, I'd never driven an IRL car prior to getting in in Kansas on Saturday morning. They know it's going to take some time to get up to speed. So we're trying to be patient. Really, as long as everybody's realistic about the situation, which they are, I think I the results will come. But I told the guys, I said, "Look, I don't want to be viewed as a magic bullet where all of a sudden I jump in and the team's winning. It's a group effort. We'll put one foot in front of the other." I think we've done that so far. It's been a very comfortable start to my IRL career.
THE MODERATOR: Next stop on the circuit is Milwaukee this coming weekend. I know a lot of the other drivers in the series, despite the fact that the IRL is going there for the first time, they've been there before with other series. Have you raced there before?
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah. I raced twice in Indy Lights. I won there in Indy Lights in 2001. Then in CART, I raced there, as well. So I don't think the track's changed a whole lot. It's a fun place to go. We run maximum downforce there with the IRL package, so that makes it a lot of fun, too, because the speeds are pretty high and you're driving the car quite a bit.
THE MODERATOR: As far as some long-term goals, now that you're in the IRL, do you start looking ahead to next year and the Indianapolis 500? For a lot of race car drivers, that is a lifelong dream. Is it a dream of yours to run at the motor speedway there in Indianapolis?
TOWNSEND BELL: I came here to Indy when I was 10 years old, 1986. Bobby Rahal won his first 500. That was my first exposure to IndyCar racing. Indianapolis was always the destination. Be thrilled to be there next year if it comes together.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Townsend.
Q. Nashville, leading into Milwaukee. A fifth-place finish in just your second outing, you and the team have got to be fairly pleased with that.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, we really are. I mean, I think it's been since the first race since they had a top-five finish. They've had a lot of bad luck, weird circumstances. They've been quick everywhere; it just hasn't come together. I think it's a bit of the monkey off the back a little bit. It felt great to give the guys a good finish. They gave me a great car and did a great job in the pits.
Q. You said a minute ago you made sure they knew at the beginning you were not the magic bullet. In the second outing, to take a top five, they've got to feel there's a little magic?
TOWNSEND BELL: Maybe just a little bit (laughter). I guess the point I was trying to make is just like -- I'm sure you guys have heard plenty in racing, there's never any one magic solution. It's a culmination of thousands of little things. Driver's certainly a big part of that. Everything has to work in harmony. You know, this last weekend, still had some challenges. We had a weight jacker fail during the race, a few other little problems. But if you can limit the problems and have everything work as harmoniously as possible, that's how you get to the front. So we're making progress. But, again, we're not quite there yet.
Q. The fact that you have, under race conditions, a lot of laps at Milwaukee, for some drivers and some teams, this may give you a little advantage. Do you think it also helps the Panther team because they've never been there under race conditions?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I think having a two-car team, you know, really makes a big difference. This is the first time that the Panther guys have had two cars for a full season. So there's a lot of, I think, sort of chemistry that's quickly developing, you know, both with me and my teammate and the whole team. You know, I think that's probably a big thing we're working on right now, is just trying to get everything synchronized with a two-car team.
Q. What do you expect out of yourself in the IRL?
TOWNSEND BELL: Just, you know, no different than any other place I've raced. Just to contribute as much to the overall performance of the team and then stay focused, give it maximum effort. You know, you hope when you do that, with a little luck, that the results will come. I mean, Panther's a winning organization. They know how to win races and win championships. They're a team that's focused on winning. That's our objective, like any race team. I think the future looks pretty promising there.
Q. Did you race the Atlantic association?
TOWNSEND BELL: No. I kind of came up through the Skip Barber system, then I raced Indy Lights for a couple years, then went to CART. I was in Europe last year in Formula 3000, then back here now.
THE MODERATOR: That looks like all the questions we have for you, Townsend. Thank you again for taking the time to join us this afternoon.
TOWNSEND BELL: Sure, my pleasure.
THE MODERATOR: Wish you the best at Milwaukee and the rest of the season.
TOWNSEND BELL: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone, for joining today on the IRL weekly teleconference.
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