In this addition of where are they now? We showcase a driver that made his name in the Lights series. Thiago Medeiros came to America in 2003 to pursue his goal of running in the Indy Car Series. He ran his first season for Genoa Racing, and started from the pole in his first ever race. Medeiros captured his first win in the last event at Texas in 2003. He then moved to Sam Schmidt Racing in 2004. He won the Indy Lights Title in 2004 and was 4th in points the next season. He has 9 career poles and 7 career Lights wins. I caught up with the 27 seven year old San Paulo native, to see what he has been up to.
Thiago won his two starts at Texas Motor Speedway, including his first career win back in 2003. I asked what made him so good at TMS. “I have been asking myself the same question. I spoke with the guys I worked with there, and they said that not everyone likes the car the way I drive it, some drivers think the rear is to loose, it just make me quicker. My first win at Texas, my spotter gave me great advice, I made a move for the lead, and Jeff Simmons followed me, it was the help I needed to get to the front of the pack.” He said on his first win. His second victory the following season was a different story as he was recovering from an injury he sustained at California Speedway. “The championship was already decided, but I wanted to win that race more than anything. I have always thought the last race of the season is the best to win, it will keep people talking until next season. I had the best car out there, I found a great setup with engineer Tim Neff, I was at the shop getting a closer look on the setup heading to Texas, I was sometimes annoying to the crew.”
In 2004, Thiago won four consecutive Lights races included the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The win at Indy meant a lot, I had great momentum after Indy, it gave me more confidence and allowed people to recognize my job in [the car] and how far I have come. When I first came to my first Lights test at Pheonix, I didn’t know a lot of English. It was a great feeling because all of the difficulty I had been having.”
Thiago only finished two races outside the top ten in his Lights career, a remarkable stat that goes a little unknown to Lights series followers. This consistency is what led him to the championship in 2004. He didn’t finish at Indy and Milwaukee in his rookie season. “In Milwaukee, we broke a wheel baring, and had a crash at Indy. My first trip to Indy, my race lasted the first two corners. I had no place to go on the outside as another driver spun below me. Races are not over until the finish line, I learned you have to be around at the end to win. You gain a few spots in the first corner, or lose the race. I always drove on the limits of the car, but I never over drove my own limits, I had the talent and experience, and when you have that, you can save the car from an accident.” Thiago recalled.
Thiago made one Indy 500 start racing for PDM Racing. It was a last second effort to get the car in on Bump Day. “The car was ok, not capable of winning, but capable of making the field. It was good to be part of the big show, I squeezed everything I could out of the car.” Thiago said. When asked if we would see him return to compete at Indy, he was optimistic. “I hope to have another opportunity with a better car.”
Thiago went on to run in the USAC series driving once again for PDM Racing. “The USAC car was one of the funniest things I have ever driven in my life. It takes skill to drive a 800 horse power car with no down force. I finished fourth twice in six starts.”
Now living with his parents in San Paulo, Thiago works at a driving school, teaching people how to race. He also teaches San Paulo natives some maneuvers on how to escape kidnappers with armed cars which is a problem in San Paulo. He recently got engaged to long time girlfriend Aline. He is studying to get his helicopter license and he may begin to run in a Semi Truck division, or stock cars in Brazil.