JACKSON, MI - - October 25, 2000 - - Patrick Racing will go gunning for their third national championship, and second CART title, this weekend at the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California. Both Adrian Fernandez, pilot of the...
JACKSON, MI - - October 25, 2000 - - Patrick Racing will go gunning for their third national championship, and second CART title, this weekend at the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California.
Both Adrian Fernandez, pilot of the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth and teammate Roberto Moreno, who is behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, are involved in a shootout that has five drivers vying for the FedEx Championship Series crown.
Fernandez, who is the defending champion at Fontana, has the best chance of the two Patrick drivers to take the FedEx title. His victory two weeks ago at Surfers Paradise, Australia, his second of the season and seventh of his CART career, vaulted him into second place in the championship standings just five points out of first place, 153-148. The win also made him the first driver to have a victory in all five countries and on all four continents that the FedEx Series competes (Canada, Toronto, 1996; United States, Mid-Ohio, 1998 and Fontana 1999; Japan, 1998 and 1999; Brazil and Australia this year). The 35-year-old Mexican, who is the hottest driver in the series, is working on a streak of 12 consecutive points paying finishes and has scored points in 16 of his last 17 starts. Fernandez has placed in the top-10 in 10 of his last 12 races while compiling seven top-six finishes in his last 10 starts including five top five showings and four podiums. The eight-year CART veteran, who is in his third season with Patrick Racing, has finished 16 of 19 races this year (the most of any driver) each time in the points. He has 14 top-10 showings (tied for first) including seven top-five finishes (tied for second) with five podium appearances (tied for third) and two wins (Rio - tied for fourth). The Paradise Valley, Arizona resident is first in miles (3849.922) and laps (2351) completed, and tenth in laps led (90).
"I am obviously very pleased to be in a position to win the FedEx Championship at Fontana. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has worked very hard all year to get us to this point. I think the championship is so competitive and tight because everybody has very good equipment, the teams are all very strong and the level of talent of the drivers is very good. When you put all those things together you are going to have a very competitive, exciting championship race like we are having right now," Fernandez said.
Fernandez captured last year's Marlboro 500 when he was able to make one less stop then the rest of the field. Fuel consumption, or lack there of, while remaining competitive has been a strategy that Fernandez has used with great success in the past on ovals, but with particular effectiveness this season on all types of circuits. Fernandez has not finished lower than fourth in three previous races at Fontana. His best starting position is 13th achieved last year.
"Fontana is a 500-mile race. I am not going to run it like a five-mile race. You have to be patient and consistent. There are a lot of things that can happen. You have to stay in contention...stay in touch with the lead group. I have my own style for ovals and 500-mile races and it has worked in the past. Hopefully, it will again, but it is a little different at Fontana because the championship is also up for grabs so it will be very competitive. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has a high level of confidence going into this weekend. We have won here before and know what it takes," noted Fernandez.
Moreno, who is tied for fifth in the championship standings with 131 points, has a mathematical, albeit slim, chance to take the FedEx title. The 41-year-old Brazilian is 22 points out of first place meaning he would have to take the pole, lead the most laps and win the race, and the four drivers in front of him in the points would all have to fail to finish. As unlikely as this sounds, stranger things have happened in 500-mile races. Moreno, a seven-year CART veteran, who is competing in just his third full season, has had a career year. Driving his first season with Patrick Racing, he led the championship standings for the first time in his CART career earlier this season and captured his first CART victory and pole (both at Cleveland). Moreno, who has been among the point's leaders all season, has been out of the top five in the standings only once this year, after Monterey, and among the top three for most of the season. The Weston, Florida resident has finished 13 of 19 races this year (tied for sixth), each time in the points with 11 top-10 showings (fifth) including seven top five finishes (tied for second) and five podium appearances (tied for third) with one victory (tied for seventh). Moreno is third in laps completed (2326), fourth in miles completed (3752.051), and fifth in laps led (138).
"It has been quite a good season for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. It is the last race of the season and I still have a chance of winning the championship. It is a very slim chance, but it is still a possibility. It has been an excellent season. Especially when you consider that it is my first real full season with a competitive team. The guys I am fighting against for the championship...they have got quite a bit more experience in competitive situations than I do. So, I think, no matter what happens in Fontana, this was a great achievement for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team and for me personally," said Moreno.
"This will be the first time I have raced at Fontana. I tested there for one day in September, but that is the only track time I have on the circuit. It's pretty much like Michigan, but a lot more bumpy," Moreno noted.
PATRICK RACING NOTES:
Patrick Racing One Of The Most Dominant Teams In FedEx Series:
After 19 of the 20 races in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season, Patrick
Racing is the only team to have two drivers in the top five in the standings. Combining the statistics of both Fernandez and Moreno, Patrick Racing has finished more races than any other team (29 of 38). They are first in points (179), top-10 (25) and top five (14) finishes, and tied for first in podium showings (10). They are first in laps (4677) and miles (7601.973) completed. They are tied for third in wins (3), fourth in laps led (228) and tied for fifth in poles (1).
Patrick Racing Crews Lead Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge:
The Patrick Racing crews are first and third in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. Fernandez' Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing crew is No. 1 with 162 points. Moreno's Visteon/Patrick Racing crew, which led the standings for much of the season, is second with 131 points. The finals, which will feature the top five teams in the standings, will be held on Friday, October 29 at 5:05 pm at California Raceway in Fontana, California.
Fernandez Second In Budweiser Hard Charger Award Standings:
Fernandez is in second place in the Budweiser Hard Charger Award season standings. Luis Garcia Jr. holds a five-point lead over Fernandez, 120-115
Consistency For Fernandez And Moreno Goes Farther Than This Year:
Starting with Fontana in 1997, Fernandez has finished sixth or better in 32 of 55 events placing in the top-10 at 40 races and in the points 43 times. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 17 of his last 32 CART starts and in the points 21 times.