FedEx Championship Adrian Fernandez, who drives the Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth in the FedEx Championship Series, will be competing in his first IROC /True Value Championship as the series kicks off on Friday, February 12 ...
Adrian Fernandez, who drives the Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth in the FedEx Championship Series, will be competing in his first IROC /True Value Championship as the series kicks off on Friday, February 12 in Daytona.
Fernandez who received an invitation to compete after a successful 1998 champ car campaign which saw him win twice (Motegi and Mid-Ohio) and end the season as Ford's top champ car driver finishing fourth in the 1998 driver's championship fight.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- TECATE/QUAKER STATE FORD-COSWORTH -- HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO COMPETE IN YOUR FIRST IROC CHAMPIONSHIP? "I'm very excited. This will be the first time I have raced in the IROC and in those type of cars and I am looking forward to it. This is going to be one of those things that you remember for a long time."
IN LOOKING AT PAST IROC FIELDS, SOME OF THE GREATEST NAMES IN THE HISTORY OF RACING HAVE COMPETED IN THIS SERIES AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE CHOSEN TO COMPETE IN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "It's an honor. From what I have heard and seen you only get there by invitation. I consider my self very grateful to be invited to compete among some of the best racers in the world. I want to show them just how good us CART guys are."
TYPICALLY IROC FIELDS ARE FILLED WITH A MAJORITY OF NASCAR DRIVERS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING AGAINST THE GOOD OLE BOYS OF NASCAR? "You mean the good "older" boys? It should be a lot of fun. They have a good series and some very talented drivers. They have a bit of an advantage in that we are competing in cars similar to the ones they are used to driving so it may take me a bit to adapt to the car."
YOU HAVE NEVER RACED STOCK CAR-TYPE CARS AT THIS LEVEL IN YOUR CAREER BEFORE. "It's a new thing to me. I am looking forward to getting in there and really racing with these guys. This is a very professional series and the drivers are among the best in the world."
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WAY A CHAMP CAR BEHAVES AND THE WAY A STOCK CAR DOES ON THE TRACK? "In the IROC cars you are turning the steering wheel a lot where with Champ Cars the steering is so precise. It is a different feeling to go into a corner and have to saw on the steering wheel. It is going to take some getting use to."
AL UNSER JR. HAS HAD THE MOST EXPERIENCE OF THE THREE CHAMP CAR DRIVERS COMPETING IN THE IROC. IT SEEMS THAT EVERYONE NEEDS A 'FRIEND' OUT THERE TO HELP OUT WITH DRAFTING. IS AL THE FIRST ONE YOU ARE GOING TO FOR HELP? "Al is an old hand at this IROC race and he will be one of the first people I go and see. Greg Moore too, we have to help out your CART pals."
HOW MUCH FUN IS IROC GOING TO BE FOR YOU? "I hope a lot. I just hope it is not going to be like it was for (Alex) Zanardi two years ago."
TURNING TO THE 1999 CART SEASON. YOU SEEMED TO GEL WITH THE ENTIRE PATRICK RACING TEAM ALMOST IMMEDIATLEY LAST SEASON. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR QUICK 1998 START AND HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS IT GOING TO BE TO HAVE THIS SAME TEAM WITH YOU IN 1999? "The management, the people, the way they welcomed me to the team last year were all big factors. They made me feel special from day one. Scott (Pruett) was a great teammate and everything worked for me. I had never had that in the past. I had good teams in the past, but never did all the pieces come together like they did with Patrick Racing. There was always a concern of how good Adrian Fernandez was as a driver, but that went away quickly with the win in Motegi, Japan. I think we had a good combination last year with the Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Firestone package but the combination to have last year was the Honda/Reynard/Firestone. We just need to keep working to make our combination better and hopefully we will have the combination to beat this year and can challenge for the championship. Everyone is so close these days that if you don't have the best combination of everything you won't be able to do it. Look at Michael (Andretti) he had one of the best cars and one of the best engines but he didn't have the tires and as good as Michael is and his team is you need the right combination to be successful. Ford has been working very hard in improving the engine. They know we have plenty of power but we need to improve the driveability and fuel consumption and that's what we are aiming for. Most of what they are doing now in the engine department is working on improving those areas and that will help us."
YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING QUITE A BIT WITH THE FORD-COSWORTH ENGINEERS DURING THE OFF-SEASON. HOW MUCH OF AN IMPROVEMENT IS THERE OVER LAST YEAR'S ENGINE? "A lot. When I came here last year and had my first test with the Ford I got out of the car and told them there was something wrong with the engine. They told me that this was just the way it was. Then I told them that they had a big problem. From there to the middle of the season last year they really worked hard to improve the drivability and I was impressed with what they accomplished. What they did to improve the engine in that time frame was very, very impressive. I hope that all the work they had done during the winter will pay off in 1999."
YOU HEAR SO MUCH ABOUT HAVING THE RIGHT PACKAGE. WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEW SWIFT CHASSIS YOU WILL RUN THIS SEASON? "It is a very stable car. It seems to be a very good car. We have not been able to find the potential of the car yet because we are still in the very early stages of testing. But I think the Swift will have even better potential than the Reynard. At our last test in Sebring we were already running in the same time that Jimmy Vasser was and they have been working with the same car for three years and we have only had our Swift for a few months. So, that's encouraging. In the ovals we are trying to find a better balance. The car is very stable and that's encouraging. So once we can find the balance on the oval setup I think it's going to be a rocket."
YOU HAVE BEEN FRIENDS WITH P.J. JONES FOR MANY YEAR PRIOR TO HIM JOINING PATRICK RACING AT THE END OF LAST SEASON. WHAT HAS P.J. BROUGHT TO THE TEAM? We do a lot of things together. I have been helping him in many aspects and I am learning from him. P.J. is helping me in regards to fitness and nutrition. I am working with a new trainer and he had helped me better understand the role of nutrition. Now I have the right people helping me and they have taught me a lot about it. Also, there is no jealously between the two of us. We work very well together and help each other out when ever we can."