An interview with Adrian Fernandez. Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're excited to welcome to the call the latest...
An interview with Adrian Fernandez.
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations.
We're excited to welcome to the call the latest winner in the CART FedEx Championship Series, Mario Dominguez, driver of the #55 Herdez Ford-Lola Bridgestone, who earned his first ever Champ Car win last Sunday at the Honda Indy 300. Adrian Fernandez of Fernandez Racing, who was injured in the spectacular first-lap accident on Sunday, will be joining us a bit later.
Merrill Cain: We now welcome Adrian Fernandez, owner of Fernandez Racing, driver of the #51 Tecate Quaker State Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. He was injured in the opening lap of the Honda Indy 300 and suffered two minor thoracic fractures in his neck as a result of the crash. Adrian will miss this Sunday's CART race at California Speedway, and his status is still in doubt for the final race in Mexico City, a race that's very important to Adrian and all of the race fans in Mexico.
Adrian, how are you feeling and do you think there is a chance that you'll be able to compete in Mexico City in a few weeks?
Adrian Fernandez: I don't feel good. I feel pretty stiff. I have a broken neck. The chances of racing in Mexico right now we don't know. It's just a matter of waiting for (CART Orthopedic Consultant) Terry (Trammell), for the doctors to see what's going to happen.
Merrill Cain: Talk to us about the accident itself. You were involved in a pretty serious one earlier this year in Vancouver that resulted in basically a hairline fracture of the hip. Can you talk about it? Do you feel any ill effects from that injury still? Was this one of the worst crashes you've been in? It looked to the naked eye like one of the worst crashes we've seen in recent history.
Adrian Fernandez: It was pretty bad. It was unfortunate because it was something that could have been avoided. We never should have started this race, that's for one. Basically when Mario hit Takagi, he launched him into the air, and basically Takagi landed on top of my head. That's basically when he fractured my two vertebrae - T2 and T3. That was one of the most serious accidents. Vancouver was also very serious.
It was just unfortunate. Like I say, when we started the race, I could not see absolutely nothing. I couldn't see the racetrack. I could not see the grandstands, the walls, anything. It was absolutely stupid to start this race, to be honest.
Merrill Cain: Mother Nature didn't do us any favors over the weekend.
Adrian Fernandez: No.
Merrill Cain: Max Papis will be stepping into the car to replace you this weekend in Fontana. You raced Max earlier in the year when you were injured at Mid-Ohio. Talk about Max and what he brings to the table.
Adrian Fernandez: Max was with us in Mid-Ohio. He's a good driver. He has a lot of experience. It was the logical choice for us to get him back into the car, which he's going to be working again with his engineers like he was working at the beginning of the year, which is Dave Watson. He will feel like at home. He's very experienced in this type of track. I feel pretty confident he will do a very good job for us.
Merrill Cain: We want to see if there's any quick questions for you.
Q: Has there ever been another period in your racing career where you've had so much bad luck in terms of injuries?
Adrian Fernandez: No, not really, not really. It's unfortunate because these accidents, I've been a victim of bad situations. Things happen sometimes in life like that. There's nothing you can do. I mean, I just could not believe, there are so many cars out on the track, the only one that this car is flying on top of is mine. Just one of those things. It really destroyed my steering wheel. Very close to having my head taken off my body, it was so close.
I've never been so unlucky in this type of event. It's just how it goes sometimes. We just have to keep doing our best. Hopefully next year will be a little bit cleaner.
Q: It might be a good time to bring up the point, with you guys being in such great physical condition, I think anybody who wasn't in such good physical shape probably would still be recovering from the crash in Vancouver. The fact that you are in such good shape, that is really going to speed along your recovery.
Adrian Fernandez: Absolutely. That really helps lot. That helped me in all my injuries, when I broke my wrist, when I broke my hip. It's something that definitely helps. I hope that type of thing will help me so I can race in Mexico.
Q: What was going through your mind when you realized what was happening?
Adrian Fernandez: Well, as soon as we started the race, I said we're in trouble, because we could not see anything. Visibility was absolutely zero. I was pretty afraid that I was going to hit somebody or somebody was going to hit me. Eventually that's what happened, somebody hit me. Jimmy hit me. It's not his fault, it's just he couldn't see also. After that, it was just a matter of waiting. You just close your eyes and wait. People hitting you, hitting you, hitting you.
Suddenly, everything stopped on the track. For a while, nothing happened. Then I heard that apparently Mario was like two, three seconds behind, suddenly he was the last guy to hit. When he hit, apparently he hit pretty hard. He was coming a pretty good speed. He hit pretty hard with Tora. As soon as he hit him, he broke his hip. Tora went and landed on top of my head. That moment, to see him, when he was in the air, landing on my head, it was a very scary moment because I could see that it was at a bad angle. His roll bar was really hitting my face. For a moment, I thought I was not going to be able to survive this one.
Q: Talking about Max, once again you have reached out to him. Any chance of putting Max in another car within your stable for next season?
Adrian Fernandez: Right now we're working on several things. Max is obviously one of our top priorities. If there is something we can do, definitely we will put Max in the series. Max I think is somebody we need in the series. That's why we considered him to replace us again this weekend. He's a guy that has a lot of experience, has a good name. It would be a good asset to keep him in CART, definitely.
Merrill Cain: We want to clarify, as Adrian pointed out, Tora Takagi was the other driver injured in the first lap accident. He suffered two small fractures of the pelvis. It is hopeful he'll be able to compete this weekend. Another testament to the shape you guys are in and the safety, the ability to protect you in the cars as best we can.
We will see you in Fontana this weekend?
Adrian Fernandez: I'll be there all weekend.
Merrill Cain: Looking forward to seeing you. Thanks for joining us today. We wish you well in your recovery.
Adrian Fernandez: Thank you.
Merrill Cain: We thank both Mario Dominguez and Adrian Fernandez. CART will return to the track this weekend with the 500 presented by Toyota at California Speedway. The race will be carried live on the SPEED Channel with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Thanks to all who participated in today's phone call and have a great afternoon.