CHAMPCAR/CART: Patrick Racing Cleveland preview

Patrick Racing'S Moreno Set To Defend Title At Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland Vasser Attemps To Regain Early Season Form JACKSON, MI - - JUNE 27, 2001 - - Riding a wave of momentum Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno brings a renewed confidence...

Patrick Racing'S Moreno Set To Defend Title At Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland

Vasser Attemps To Regain Early Season Form

JACKSON, MI - - JUNE 27, 2001 - - Riding a wave of momentum Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno brings a renewed confidence to the defense of his title at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firststar, June 29-July 1, on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.

Moreno, who pilots the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, is coming off his best performance of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, a second place showing last weekend at the Freightliner/G. I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Oregon. It was Moreno's second consecutive podium showing (third in Detroit) and the second year in a row that he has finished second at Portland. The native of Brazil has now placed in the points in five of his last six races and five of the seven races this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second). He is 12th in the standings with 36 points.

"The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team has worked very hard and it has paid off the last two races, Moreno said. "As a driver it is a bit difficult to maintain your confidence when you get off to a slow start, but as a team we stayed focused and now the results are coming," Moreno noted.

Moreno, who captured his first career CART pole and win last year at Cleveland, will be making his fifth start on the Burke Lakefront Airport runway. In four previous races he has qualified in the top-10 twice starting fifth in 1999 to go with the pole last year. He has also finished in the top-10 twice placing eighth in 1999 along with last year's victory.

"It was great last year in Cleveland," Moreno said. "I captured my first career CART pole and I am very proud of that. Starting on pole really helped me to win the race because there were a lot of crashes behind me and I didn't have to get involved in all of that. We had the fastest car in the race and the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a great job in the pits so we were able to bring home my first career CART victory. The memories of that race are fantastic for me. Winning your first CART race stays in your mind forever," Moreno noted.

Commenting on the difficult temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport, Moreno said, "Cleveland is a very challenging place. There are a lot of chicanes and that makes things interesting. Also, because you are on an airport runway it is very difficult to find your braking points. The track is wide and you have no reference points so all you see is the cones in the corners. The biggest challenge at Cleveland is to know where you have to brake."

The Weston, Florida resident has had considerable success during this stretch of road/street races (Detroit, Portland, Cleveland and Toronto) in the past and is doing so once again. Since 1999 he has nine starts on the four circuits with seven top-10 finishes, five top-four showings and the victory at Cleveland. Last year he used this portion of the season to move into first place in the championship standings for the first time in his CART career. Two weeks ago, prior to the Detroit and Portland races, Moreno was sitting in 17th place in the 2001 standings with six points. He was 64 points out of first place. Since then he has moved up five places in the standings and cut the points difference by over 33%. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 21 of his last 40 CART starts and in the points 27 times. He has finished in the points in 14 of his last 23 road/street course starts with 11 top-10 placements, seven top five showings and five podiums including his two wins.

Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, will be trying to regain the form that saw him finish in the top-six in the first four races of the 2001 season (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth). The 35-year-old California has been plagued by misfortune, and just plain bad luck, his last three outings. In Milwaukee he was knocked from the competition while running in third place when rookie Tora Takagi made a questionable move. At Detroit he was in sixth place, but lost control of his car hitting the wall. Finally, in one of the more bizarre incidents, Vasser sprained his right ankle exiting his motorcoach on race day in Portland. While vehemently denying that the injury, which required two 30-minute treatment sessions, had anything to do with his performance, Vasser, never-the-less finished a race out of the top-six for the first time this year placing 15th at Portland. The net result is no points in the last three races dropping the talented and determined former CART champion from a tie for third to a tie for ninth (40 points) in the championship race.

"First of all my ankle is fine. It's just a sprain. I have had them before playing basketball. It's no big deal," Vasser said. "As far as the championship race, every team goes through a stretch like this during the season. You try and avoid them, but when they occur you just try and keep it as short as possible. The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team got off to a good start so we know we can be competitive. We just have to get down to business and start winning some races," Vasser concluded.

The Las Vegas, Nevada resident will be making his ninth start at Cleveland. In eight previous contests he has started in the top-10 twice taking the pole both times (1996 and 1998). He has finished in the top-10 four times with a best showing of third in 1995.

"Cleveland is a unique track because it is a runway circuit," Vasser said. "It is really bumpy and getting the car to work over the bumps is always paramount.

The first turn is also very important. Anytime you start the race and all the cars funnel into the first corner you are going to have some problems. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team should have a good baseline setup at Cleveland because Roberto (teammate Roberto Moreno) took the pole there last year and, hopefully, that will get us off to a good start," Vasser noted.

Vasser, like his teammate, has had considerable success on this stretch of road/street circuits during his CART career. In 36 career starts at Detroit, Portland, Cleveland and Toronto he has finished in the points 20 times with 16 top-10 placements, six top-five showings and four podiums. Overall, Vasser has 93 CART career road/street starts. He has placed in the points 55 times with 48 top-10 finishes including 24 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories. Vasser has finished 90 of his last 110 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).

PATRICK RACING NOTES:

Patrick Racing Scores High In Reliability:
Combining the stats of Moreno and Vasser, Patrick Racing is tied for second in finishes (11), second in laps completed (1734), third in miles completed (2509.322) and fifth in points (76).

Patrick Racing Second in Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge:
After seven races Vasser's #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard crew is second in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge standings with 58 points. Moreno's #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew finished first at Portland and has moved into fifth in the standings with 46 points.

McGee Holds Record For Most Wins:
Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee is tops on the all-time wins list for a Manager/Chief Mechanic with 88. McGee has nine national championships and is the only Manager/Chief Mechanic to win a championship in four decades (60's - 90's). He has at least one victory in each of his last five decades (his 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's) and a least one victory in each of the last five decades (60's-00).

Patrick Racing Facts:
Patrick Racing, which enters its 29th year of competition in 2001, is one of the most successful teams in the history of Champ Car racing with 44 victories, three Indianapolis 500 wins and two national championships (1976 - Gordon Johncock and 1989 - Emerson Fittipaldi). U. E. "Pat" Patrick is the co-founder of CART and the "father" of the Dayton Indy Lights Series.

For background, statistical information, releases, notes, quotes plus updates on race weekends, go to (www.patrickracing.com).

-PR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Emerson Fittipaldi , Gordon Johncock