CHAMPCAR/CART: Papis to substitute for Fernandez at Fontana

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (October 29) -- Fernandez Racing Team Owners Adrian Fernandez and Tom Anderson announced today that Max Papis will replace Adrian Fernandez in Round 18 of the CART FedEx Championship Series at California Speedway this weekend.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (October 29) -- Fernandez Racing Team Owners Adrian Fernandez and Tom Anderson announced today that Max Papis will replace Adrian Fernandez in Round 18 of the CART FedEx Championship Series at California Speedway this weekend. Fernandez is currently recovering from two thoracic fractures (below the neck) sustained in a major multi-car incident at the start of the Honda Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia, on October 27.

"It's unfortunate that I will not be able to race in Fontana, but I know that Max will do a good job for us this weekend," said Fernandez. "I have had a lot of success at this track and so has Max. I have a lot of respect for his ability behind the wheel."

This is the second time that Papis, 33, of Como, Italy, will take over driving duties of the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. He also drove for the team at the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio while Fernandez was recovering from injuries incurred in a multi-car crash at Vancouver on July 28.

"Adrian, unfortunately, is the most unlucky driver," said Papis. "This is another unfortunate circumstance for him.

"I am pleased that the team again called me to drive. I have never won the Fontana race but I finished second last year by 0.123 seconds, and I finished second to Adrian in 1999. I am going to try to do what I didn't do last year and that is to win the race. I like the track and I am really looking forward to working with my former engineer David Watson. [Watson, who joined Fernandez Racing for the final three races, was the race engineer for Papis at Sigma Autosport.]"

Papis is in his seventh season of Champ Car competition, and finished sixth in the championship last year. He has three Champ Car career wins to his credit. Papis scored podium finishes in two of five races contested earlier this season with Sigma Autosport, prior to its withdrawal from the series. His last Champ Car race was with Fernandez Racing at Mid-Ohio on August 11.

"I was planning to come to California anyway to surf," said Papis. "Now I will trade my surfboard for a steering wheel."

Fernandez has yet to be cleared to drive in the final event of the season, the Telmex Gigante Grand Prix in his hometown of Mexico City on November 17.

"Adrian has minor compression fractures of the second and third thoracic vertebrae," said Dr. Terry Trammell, CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant. "The risk of him driving at Fontana after this type of injury is too great, but he should be sufficiently recovered to drive at Mexico City."

Added Fernandez, "Everything looks very promising that I will be able to race in Mexico. I will begin therapy and do what I can. Fontana is out of the question. It is just too soon. Obviously, the Mexico City race is very important for us, and it is something that I have been looking forward to for a long, long time. I am hoping with all my heart that I will be able to race there."

In the interim, Fernandez plans to attend the race at Fontana.

"I will be in Fontana to support the team, Shinji and Max, and hopefully we will have some good news soon about Mexico City. It has been a strange year. It is like my car has a black cloud or a magnet above it that seems to attract these things."

-fr-

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