Lowe's Fernandez Racing Wins Nail Biter in Utah Adrian Fernandez performed flawlessly under pressure to capture an LMP2 class win and third-place overall result in the closing minutes of the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix this ...
Lowe's Fernandez Racing Wins Nail Biter in Utah
Adrian Fernandez performed flawlessly under pressure to capture an LMP2 class win and third-place overall result in the closing minutes of the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix this afternoon. Like the class pole position yesterday, it was a hard fought battle as Fernandez held off the charge of Butch Leitzinger, who maintained the LMP2 lead throughout the majority of the race, to cross the finish line a scant one second ahead of the #20 Dyson Mazda.
Luis Diaz started the race, surviving a chaotic start. As expected, Diaz lost the P2 lead on the opening lap to the Mazdas who held a speed advantage on the straight. It was a frustrating stint for Diaz as he lost touch with the Mazdas while battling two of LMP1 cars. When he pitted on Leader Lap 36 to turn the controls over to Fernandez at the one-hour mark, he was shown third overall and first in class due to pit stops.
Fernandez returned to the track third in class and fifth overall and had his hands full during his first stint with oversteer on the #15 Lowe's Acura. He assumed the class lead on Leader Lap 60 [with just over an hour remaining] when the #20 car pitted.
The team elected to take tires on Fernandez's final stop [Leader Lap 71 with just over 50 minutes remaining] in an attempt to correct the handling with a tire pressure adjustment. Fernandez held a 27-second lead over Leitzinger coming in but the tire change allowed Leitzinger to retake the lead.
The race came down to the final 17 minutes when the #20 car pitted from the lead. Fernandez's race pace put him in position to overtake Leitzinger as he exited pit lane which was the key to the race. Fernandez fought hard and maintained a slight lead over Leitzinger in the closing stages while maneuvering through traffic. He was sandwiched between the two Mazda's [the #16 Mazda was not on the P2 lead lap] in an exciting final lap at Miller Motorsports Park.
Adrian Fernandez: "It was a tough race. It was a little frustrating at the beginning when Luis was losing time to the leaders with the traffic. There were a few P1s that we were quite a bit quicker than and he just couldn't pass them. I give Luis a lot of credit to have the patience because it would have been so easy to throw it away at the beginning knowing that you were losing so much time. We were losing four or five seconds a lap sometimes, to a point that we were almost 50 seconds behind the leader of the P2s.
"We knew things were not going to be easy so everything had to work in our favor at the end to win it. When I jumped in the car, it was good for the first two laps and then it was very loose. I was catching traffic at the wrong time and the car was just not working well. I was trying to be patient because I knew the Mazdas had to make one more pit stop than us. I was communicating with John [Ward, race engineer] on what we were going to do to the car on my stop and it made a difference at the end. The car was definitely quicker.
"At the end, it was very close. We barely got in front of the #20 Mazda and we finished one or two seconds ahead of them. It was a great victory and very well-deserved by everyone on the team. After our past performance here, it was nice to win especially after such a close race with the Mazdas."
Luis Diaz: "It was a great day. The whole team did a great job. We knew the disadvantages of being a little bit slower on the straights, but the Acura is a great car and the guys did a tremendous job in the pits. Adrian did a great job at the end under pressure. It was an awesome race. We fought hard for this one."