DC's commentary: Fernandez unloads

Whether public or private, business or personal life, it's almost a universal truth that a person seeking to escape a relationship will first start pick, pick, picking away at the relationship's other party -- justified or not -- so as to compile...

Whether public or private, business or personal life, it's almost a universal truth that a person seeking to escape a relationship will first start pick, pick, picking away at the relationship's other party -- justified or not -- so as to compile a dossier to which they can later point as a reason in substantiation of announcing their dissatisfaction and desired termination of that relationship.

Sometimes the real underlying reasons aren't apparent to outsiders looking in until well after the heaped dung is knee-high to an elephant's eye.

But, by then, the parties have separated; the party's respective defenders will align and each alternately hurl invective -- or maybe more dung -- at each other in "support" of their favored party.

Well, let the dunging continue.

In a media-room debriefing following his victory Saturday at The EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio sports Car Course, Adrian Fernandez leveled criticism at Grand American Rolex Series officials for having disallowed his No. 12 Lowe's Pontiac-Riley qualifying time "for a sixteenth-of-an-inch" on an aerodynamic piece affixed in the forward areas of the race car.

"How much difference is one-sixteenth of an inch going to make!?" Fernandez and others in his organization incredulously wondered aloud after the verdict that sent him from a top-three grid spot to 27th.

The Lowe's car was one of three Rileys sent rearward and was joined by Krohn Racing's No. 76 Ford-Riley - which started 25th and finished second - and Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 01 Lexus-Riley - started 26th and crashed-out on the 85th lap.

"If an added one-sixteenth of an inch doesn't mean anything, then why doesn't the team take it a sixteenth in the other direction," rhetorically asked competition director Scott Spencer in reply to a reporter's inquiry about the infraction.

"The rule's clear, it wasn't made up on-the-fly and a majority of the other Riley's abided by it. Why shouldn't the 12-car be expected to skinny it up, too?"

Without detected infractions, more than twice again as many Rileys retained their qualification times and grid spaces.

Jorg Bergmeister, Rolex Series Daytona Prototype points leader and second-place Mid-O race finisher (along with co-driver Colin Braun, who actually got to race!), had before the race simply said of their team's disallowed time: "I recognize those things happen sometimes even though we wish they wouldn't. But it just makes us drive harder."

In the post-race media conference Fernandez also went on to essentially claim the Rolex Series uses junior-league methods in a major-league racing world, adding, "I'm really disappointed in that."

At the race before, the Sahlen's 6 Hours of The Glen, and after an unexpected lawsuit caused an entire day's worth of practice to be undesirably scratched from the schedule, Fernandez was nearly beside himself when it was announced that the grid was going to be established by points so as to allow more practice time for those teams which brought in a third driver for the endurance race.

Plain and simple: the qualification run was canceled as a function of safety. No driver had gotten any practice time at The Glen until 1 p.m. of the day before the race. Third drivers needed the seat time. Providing that extra track time was a way to help those third drivers become acclimated to the cars and the course on which they'd drive it.

Though explained to him, Fernandez nonetheless complained privately and publicly -- in that order -- again going well beyond just noting his opposition, by adding invective which belittled the Rolex Series, adding what's become a recurring theme: his "disappointment."

Is he really disappointed or is he just looking for a way to justify his leaving the series come the end of 2006?

Honda/Acura has made no secret of their plans to enter the 2007 ALMS ranks with an LMP2 car.

According to Honda Performance Development president Robert Clarke, they'll be plugging an Acura-branded engine into Lola and Courage platforms so as to hopefully accelerate their understanding of how things work.

Honda/Acura has gone a long way to make known its racing plans except in one aspect: the team doing it. When Porsche announced its car, it announced its team. With nearly every major race schedule at half-way or better, the 2007 race silly season is fast approaching.

(Has anyone perchance seen where this is going, yet?)

One Adrian Fernandez will be the owner and, perhaps, driver putting the Honda/Acura petal to metal, as he leaves Grand American's Rolex Series in his tire smoke.

Part of Fernandez reason may be attributable to his future. He is a businessman who must look at the bottom line, after all. A fruitful Honda, darn-big check connection will surely enhance any bottom line.

Another part of his moving over to that side of the sportscar racing fence might be grounded in pure pride for a man in whose culture "face" is extremely important.

It'll look a lot better for a sponsor company's president to see that a sponsored car finished fifth or better in-class at every race - which is what anyone running LMP2 would all but be guaranteed right now with the ALMS' LMP2 car count.

What can be said with almost near certainty: there won't be two-dozen LMP2 cars entered at the same time in the same race for the foreseeable future. And even if those numbers were to happen, it still would be a car count south of the average number of Daytona Prototypes participating in the 12 points-paying races thus far run in the Rolex Series' 2006 season.

A salient fact of life: the fewer the number, the better one's "luck."

"I think Mr. Fernandez didn't fully realize how competitive the Daytona Prototypes really are from team to team," said one high-placed Rolex Series voice, who asked to remain anonymous.

"He came into the series thinking he'd be able to take his well-sponsored, high-quality, high-tech open-wheel racing organization and just kick everyone's butt. It hasn't happened."

In the 11 points-paying races before their Mid-Ohio victory, Fernandez and Haberfeld had finished on top of only one other race -- the Phoenix qualifier.

In all, the team has averaged slightly worse than an 11th-place finish when all 12 race finishes -- including those of Phoenix and Mid-Ohio -- are plugged into the numbers mix.

Maybe Fernandez just underestimated the effort necessary to compete for top honors in Daytona Prototypes.

Maybe Fernandez is just being a shrewd businessman ensuring a comfortable living for his family.

"Look, people sometimes find situations that don't suit them," the anonymous Rolex Series voice continued. "As a result, they want to move on to other areas.

"That's what this country's all about: freedom of choice. We don't want anyone being here who doesn't want to be here. If Mr. Fernandez really wants to go elsewhere then we understand. Sure, we'd like for him to stay, but we understand and we wish him the best for himself and his future if that actually is his course of action."

About the only question remaining now is whether Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse -- which has done so well with Grand American big brother NASCAR -- is looking to potentially insult the organization that collaboratively helped Lowe's become so well known - and loyally supported.

--DC Williams, Commentary written exclusively for Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series ALMS , Grand-Am
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Colin Braun , Jörg Bergmeister , Chip Ganassi , Scott Spencer , Robert Clark
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing