FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2000 - Round 20 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez qualified 14th and Roberto Moreno 19th for tomorrow's Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California. Gil de Ferran...
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2000 - Round 20 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez qualified 14th and Roberto Moreno 19th for tomorrow's Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California. Gil de Ferran captured the pole earning one point and now holds a six-point lead over Fernandez going into the season finale.
Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, was 12th on the speed charts following yesterday's single 90-minute practice session with a time of 30.865 seconds (236.656 mph). In this morning's practice he ran a quick time of 30.907 second (236.336 mph), which was the tenth fastest of the session, but slower than yesterday's quick time. Fernandez entered qualifying 15th on the two-day combined speed chart, but with hopes of a top-ten starting position. In qualifying, which was run in inverse order of the points, as opposed to the usual format of running in inverse order from the combined practice report, Fernandez went out second to last. Despite having the accelerator pedal flat all the way around the track, he was unable to equal his practice times, let only approach the pole speed. His fastest of two timed laps was 31.261 seconds (233.659 mph). De Ferran's pole time was 30.255 seconds (241.428 mph).
"The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team knew we didn't have the speed going into qualifying. I was expecting maybe a 236 or 237. We knew we couldn't do a 239, but I was surprised we didn't have a little more speed. We have some drag on the car, but we don't know where it is. I was going flat out, but we just didn't have the speed. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth is very balanced and very easy to drive, so we should be okay in the race tomorrow," Fernandez said.
Fernandez has now qualified in the top-10 in eight of 20 races this year. He has not finished lower than fourth in three previous races at Fontana with a best starting position of 13th achieved last year. The 35-year-old Mexican, who is the defending champion at Fontana, now trails de Ferran 153-148. In tomorrow's race he will be trying to extend his streak of 12 straight points paying finishes and in the process pass de Ferran and capture his first CART Championship.
"The Penske's have been strong all weekend, but the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team just has to do what it has all year. We have to stay out of trouble and be patient. We have to do our best, work our race strategy and hopefully the car will carry us to the end of the race. If we do those things everything should turn out okay for us," Fernandez concluded.
Moreno, driving the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, began the day 22nd on the speed charts after posting a time of 31.284 seconds (233.487 mph) in yesterday's practice session. In this morning's practice things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Two laps into the session he was hit by Max Papis damaging his primary car. Forced into the backup car for the remainder of the session, Moreno could only muster a fast time of 31.561 seconds (231.438 mph). As a result he ended up 25th on the two-day combined practice report. After frantic work by his Visteon/Patrick Racing crew the primary car was repaired in time for qualifying. Taking his turn fifth from last, Moreno was able to slightly improve his time over the morning session turning a quick lap of 31.529 seconds (231.672 mph). His failure to capture the pole mathematically eliminated him from championship contention.
"Unfortunately, we had to give up are dreams of a championship because we had to have the pole, which we didn't get, in order to stay in the hunt. We were under a bit of a handicap because of the accident this morning. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a great job to fix the car, but we lost a lot of time with the car because of the accident. I think the Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth is a very good race car and we have been strong on ovals all year. We have a good strategy for these races, so I am looking forward to tomorrow," said Moreno.
Moreno, who is already assured of his highest championship finish in his seven-year CART career, can salvage his weekend by winning the race and taking home the $1 million first place purse. The 41-year-old Brazilian, who is competing for the first time at Fontana, is currently tied for fifth in the standings with 131 points. Competing in just his third full season, and first with Visteon/Patrick Racing, Moreno has been among the point's leaders all season. He 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. Moreno has qualified in the top-10 in nine of 19 races.
"This has been a fantastic year for me in my first season with a competitive team.
I have been among the point's leaders all season and was still in a position to win
the championship coming into the last race of the season. Now, we just have to do our best tomorrow and finish as high as possible in the race and the championship points. Even the Visteon/Patrick Racing team missed out on the championship it has still been a great season for both me and the team."
The Marlboro 500 will be run tomorrow, Sunday, October 29 at 11:30 a.m. (PT). It will be shown live on ESPN.