Long Beach: Fernandez Racing preview

Lowe's Fernandez Racing Drivers "At Home" In Long Beach Lowe's Fernandez Racing returns to familiar territory this weekend as the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) makes its debut in a premier West Coast event - the 33rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of...

Lowe's Fernandez Racing Drivers "At Home" In Long Beach

Lowe's Fernandez Racing returns to familiar territory this weekend as the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) makes its debut in a premier West Coast event - the 33rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Team owner/driver Adrian Fernandez has been competing on the challenging temporary race circuit through the streets of Long Beach, Calif., for over a decade. Co-driver Luis Diaz is also not lacking in experience with five career starts at Long Beach including a win in last year's Grand-Am race.

While new to ALMS competition, Lowe's Fernandez Racing has made an impressive start and currently sits second in the LMP2 class point standings. Fernandez and Diaz looked poised for Victory Lane two weeks ago at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg until a costly late-race penalty knocked the #15 Lowe's Acura Lola out of the lead. Knowing they have a car capable of meeting the demands of a temporary street course, Fernandez and Diaz feel they are ready to challenge at Long Beach.

Of Note:

* Fernandez is the most experienced driver in the ALMS field on the streets of Long Beach having made 13 career starts on the temporary street circuit [one in Grand Am, 11 in Champ Car and one in Indy Lights competition]

* Fernandez claimed his best finish at Long Beach of second in 2003 driving for Fernandez Racing in the Champ Car Series; his best starting position was third in 1998 in Champ Car

* Diaz was last year's polesitter and race winner in the Grand-Am race at Long Beach

* Diaz has made a total of five career starts at Long Beach [two in Indy Lights, two in Atlantics and one in Grand Am]

* Following two rounds of ALMS competition [Sebring and St. Petersburg], Fernandez and Diaz currently sit second in the LMP2 championship standings, only three points out of first

* A first-year team in ALMS competition, Lowe's Fernandez Racing has claimed two top-five results to date -- second at Sebring and fourth at St. Petersburg

* Fernandez entered sports car competition in 2006 after a successful career at the top levels of open-wheel racing

* Diaz, voted "Driver of the Year" in Mexico in 2006, brings the most sports car racing experience to the team with eight wins in three years of Grand-Am competition

FERNANDEZ ON THE CHALLENGES THIS WEEKEND: "Two words: track time. We have 45 minutes of practice before qualifying and you need to try to give both drivers some time in the car in that window. Then we have 20 minutes of final practice before the race. It is going to be challenging and more than ever, you need to roll out to pit lane for the first time with a good-handling car. Qualifying is very important and, as for the race, it is all about traffic. You have four classes of cars in ALMS and you are all battling for the same piece of real estate on a track that doesn't have much forgiveness if you put a foot wrong. This is a track that Luis and I know very well and, after our performance in St. Petersburg, I feel very good about this weekend."

FERNANDEZ ON RETURNING TO LONG BEACH: "I have been coming to Long Beach for so many years that it really feels like a 'home' event for me. You have to love this race -- the fans, the atmosphere. No matter where you go in the city, it is all about the Grand Prix. My first race in Champ Car was here in 1993 so I have a lot of great memories but I'm still missing a win. I would love to be able to do that this weekend especially as an Acura-powered team with HPD [Honda Performance Development] based in Santa Clarita and American Honda in Torrance. It would be very special to give them a win in their own backyards."

FERNANDEZ ON THIS STAGE OF HIS CAREER: "I turn 44 in two weeks [April 20] and I can honestly say that I am at the best point of my life right now. I have won in Champ Car, IndyCars and Grand-Am and for sure my next two goals are wins in the ALMS and, hopefully, Busch at some stage. We have a great sports car program in partnership with Lowe's and Acura, and my wife, Catalina, and I are expecting our first child in two weeks. Life is pretty good right now."

DIAZ ON HIS WIN AT LONG BEACH LAST YEAR: "I love racing at Long Beach so it was pretty special last year when I qualified the car on pole and Scott [Pruett] brought it home. This is the second of three street course races in a row and our performance at St. Petersburg has given us a lot of momentum heading into Long Beach. For me personally, after the penalty in St. Petersburg, I learned a lot and want to show that this weekend with a good result. The team, Adrian and myself all know Long Beach well and I think that will really help us."

DIAZ ON HIS APPROACH TO THE RACE: "There is a lot to think about and race strategy will be important. It is an hour and 40-minute race and you need to make a driver change during that time. Traffic will always come into play especially on a tight circuit like this and each class in the series will have strengths at different parts of the track that you need to consider. You have to balance between being patient when you need to and aggressive to get the job done and mistake-free as much as possible. The challenges of racing on a street circuit are what makes it so enjoyable."

-credit: fr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Luis Diaz