FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2001 -- Round ...
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2001 -- Round #21 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing had a workmanlike first day of practice today in preparation for this weekend's Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota at California Speedway in Fontana, California.
Roberto Moreno, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was 19th on the combined practice report at the end of the day, while teammate Jimmy Vasser, piloting the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, sits 27th. Although at first glance their rankings appear low, both drivers were confident at the conclusion of today's practices because they spent most of their time working on race setups with full tanks. Visteon/Patrick Racing is looking for strong performances this weekend as the team attempts to finish the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season in the top-10 in the standings and tries to claim the $1 million first place purse awarded for this race.
Moreno had a very deliberate and patient morning practice as the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team diligently worked through their race preparation checklist. Moreno spent most of the morning session ranked in the high twenties, but at the end of the practice, as the fuel tanks ran down, he was able to turn a fast lap of 32.253 seconds (226.472 mph) putting him 10th on the morning practice report. In the afternoon practice, Moreno again worked on his race setups running on full-tanks and scrubbing tires for much of the session. His fastest time in the afternoon practice was 32.323 seconds (225.981 mph) putting him 16th on the individual afternoon practice report. Based on his morning time he ended up 19th on the combined report.
"The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a very good day," Moreno said. "We worked on race setups, ran in traffic and on full tanks, and scrubbed tires for most of the day. Tomorrow we will work on getting speed out of the car. The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard feels very good. It is well balanced so I think we will be in good shape for qualifying and the race," Moreno noted.
Moreno, who is in his eighth CART season and second season with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is making just his second start at California Speedway (he finished second last year). He is currently 11th in the championship standings with 76 points, just seven points out of 10th place. The talented and personable Brazilian is looking to snap a streak this weekend that has seen him finish out of the points in his last five races as he tries to battle his way into the top-10 in the championship standings for the second consecutive year. Moreno has finished 14 of 19 races this year placing in the points 11 times. He has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. The Weston, Florida resident, has placed in the points three times in seven oval races this season. He has scored points in 14 of his last 21 oval contests with 10 top-10 finishes, six top-five showings and four podiums.
Vasser and his #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew spent even more time today working on race setups and running on full tanks than their counterparts on the #20 side. His quick lap in morning practice was 32.555 seconds (224.371 mph) placing him 22nd on the morning practice report, but the data the team acquired was extremely valuable. In the afternoon session, Vasser was able to improve on his morning time turning a fast lap of 32.391 seconds (225.507 mph), which put him 20th on the individual practice report in the afternoon and 27th on the combined report.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team ran on full tanks most of the today. We weren't concerned with one-lap speed. We were just trying to make the car good for race day. The team got a lot of very valuable data today and I think we have a nice setup for the race. We will spend tomorrow morning working on speed, but based on what I have seen, and felt so far, I think we are in good shape for both qualifying and the race," Vasser said.
Vasser, who is making his fifth start at California Speedway, is 12th in the championship standings also with 76 points (he is tied in points with Moreno, but Moreno wins the tiebreaker based on his win at Vancouver). The talented and determined native of California is making another patented late season charge in an attempt to finish in the top-10 in the championship standings for the seventh consecutive year. Vasser is working on a streak of four consecutive points paying finishes for the first time since the first four races of the season.
He has scored points in nine of 19 races this year placing in the top-10 eight times, the top-six seven times and the top-five five times. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has finished in the points in three of seven oval races this year. In 65 CART oval starts he has finished in the points 46 times with 43 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podiums and five wins.
Vasser has high hopes for a strong performance here at California Speedway and with good reason. In four previous races he has qualified in the top-six all four times with a best starting position of second in 1997 and 1998. Vasser has finished in the top-five three times with two podiums (second in the inaugural event in 1997 and a victory in 1998).
Patrick Racing has also enjoyed considerable success at Fontana. In four races, eight starts, at California Speedway, Patrick Racing has qualified in the top-10 three times taking the pole in 1998 (Scott Pruett). They have finished in the top-10 five times, with four top-five showings including two podiums and a win (Fernandez - 1999)
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning from 8:00 - 9:00 AM. Qualifying will begin at 11:15 AM. The Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota will be run on Sunday, November 4 at 12:30 PM (PT)) and will be televised live on ESPN at 3:30 PM (ET)