Misfortune Strikes Visteon/Patrick Racing Qualifying Effort HOUSTON, TEXAS -- FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2001 -- Round ...
Misfortune Strikes Visteon/Patrick Racing Qualifying Effort
HOUSTON, TEXAS -- FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2001 -- Round #18 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series -- Misfortune struck the Visteon/Patrick Racing team during today's qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix on the temporary street circuit in Houston, Texas.
Roberto Moreno, driving the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, had an electrical problem cut short his qualifying run leaving him 11th on the staring grid. Meanwhile, teammate Jimmy Vasser, the defending Houston Grand Prix Champion, was the victim of a penalty held over from Vancouver and red flags, which limited his on track time. Vasser qualified the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard 24th.
Moreno started the day eighth on the combined practice report following Friday's practice sessions with a fast time of 61.758 seconds (89.012 mph). During Saturday morning practice his time continued to improve, but he fell back one position. Moreno's quick lap in the morning practice was of 61.118 seconds (89.944 mph) putting him ninth on the speed charts. In qualifying the personable native of Brazil went out with the second or "fast" group based on his 11th place standing in the points race. He quickly got up to speed turning his fastest lap of the weekend clocking a time of 60.612 seconds (90.695 mph). The quick lap put him second on the grid at that point. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the racing gods decided to play a cruel trick. With 19 minutes remaining in the 30-minute qualifying session, Moreno experienced an electrical problem that put an end to his day. He will start on the inside of the sixth row.
"I am very pleased with the way the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard is handling. The car is awesome," Moreno said. "Unfortunately, because of an electrical problem we had to sit out most of the qualifying session otherwise I am sure we would be starting in the first three rows and possibly on pole. We were able to get in one good lap early in the session and that held up pretty well. I just wish we could have had a chance to show how fast we really are. It is interesting because the same type of thing happened in Vancouver and it work out okay. Hopefully, we can have the same result as Vancouver in the race tomorrow," Moreno concluded.
The Weston, Florida resident is currently 11th in the championship standings with 74 points just two points out of 10th place and 18 out of fifth. He is competing on - 1 - the streets of Houston for just the second time (qualified 14th and finished 11th last year), but has enjoyed tremendous success at the street events this year. Moreno has finished in the points in all five street races with three top-10 showings, two podium appearances and a win, a month ago in Vancouver. He has finished in the points in eight of nine road/street events this year with five top-10 showings including three podiums and the win.
Much of Moreno's success this year can be attributed to his remarkable consistency. He has finished 14 of 16 races, tied for the most of any driver, and placed in the points 11 of 16 times including eight of the last 11 events. Moreno has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. He has finished in the top-10 in 24 of his last 49 starts and in the points 33 times. The eight-year CART veteran, who is in his second season with Visteon/Patrick Racing, has finished in the points in 21 of his last 32 road/street course races with 16 top-10 placements, nine top-five showings, six podiums and two wins.
Vasser, who had consistently run in the top-five all weekend, began the day fourth on the combined practice report following Friday practice notching a fast lap of 61.478 seconds (89.417 mph). In morning practice he, like his teammate, continued to improve turning a quick time of 60.995 seconds (90.125 mph). However, with the team continuing to make changes to improve the car and plenty of time still left in the practice session, Vasser tapped the wall in pit lane putting him on the sidelines for the rest of the session. His time, never the less, was still good enough to put him seventh on the morning practice report. In qualifying, Vasser, who is 14th in the championship standings, went out with the first or "slow" group. Going into the session the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team knew that their time would be limited. Vasser was accessed an eight minute penalty for causing a red flag during qualifying in Vancouver, which was held over until qualifying in Houston. Having to deal with that would have been bad enough, but when his qualifying session started on with a yellow flag, then had two red flags and several laps hampered by local yellows, getting a solid qualifying lap in became next to impossible. As a result he will line-up on the outside of the 12th row.
"Obviously I am extremely disappointed," Vasser said. "The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard has been a top-five car all weekend and I thought we had a legitimate shot at the pole. Unfortunately, between the penalty from Vancouver, the two red flags and the yellow flag laps, there just wasn't enough time to get in a good qualifying lap. We never were able to get the tires up to temperature and run a clean lap. Fortunately, the car is very competitive and the Visteon/Patrick Racing team is known for having good race strategies. Hopefully, Mr. Patrick, Jim McGee and Ed Nathman can work something out to get me into a position to race for the win," concluded Vasser. - 2 - In addition to the Visteon/Patrick Racing team's wealth of experience and knowledge, Vasser has his own skill and history of success at Houston in his favor. In his three previous starts he has finished in the top-four twice, fourth in 1998 and the win last year.
The native of California, who has finished in the top-10 in the point's race for six consecutive years including taking the championship in 1996, is currently 14th in the 2001 standings with 56 points. Vasser started the 2001 season impressively finishing in the top-six in the first four races before falling victim to a series of incidents that can only be described as bad luck. He has scored points in just two of his last 12 races and snapped a streak of seven consecutive starts without a points paying showing two weeks ago at Rockingham. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has placed in the top-10 six times, the top-six five times and the top-five four times in the 16 races this year. Vasser has finished in the top-six in three of nine road/street races, all three times on street circuits.
During his nine plus CART seasons, Vasser has established himself as one of the most consistent and reliable drivers in the series. In 163 CART starts he has 92 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings. He has finished 94 of his last 119 races placing in the points 87 times (from Milwaukee '95). Vasser has been very strong on road/street circuits throughout his CART career. In 98 CART career road/street races, Vasser has finished in the points 56 times with 49 top-10 finishes, 25 top-five showings, 14 podiums and four wins.
Visteon/Patrick Racing has had their best performances of the season on the street circuits in 2001. In five street races, 10 starts, the team has produced seven finishes in the points with five top-10 performances, four top-five showings and two podium appearances including the win by Moreno in Vancouver. In fact, the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has achieved most of its success this season on the road and street circuits. In nine road/street races, 18 starts, Visteon/Patrick Racing has finished in the points 11 times, with eight top-10 showings, five top-five, three podiums and the win. Additionally, Patrick Racing's record at Houston is another indication that at least a points paying finish is in the offing. In three previous races in Houston, six starts, Patrick drivers have finished in the points five times.
The Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston will be run tomorrow, Sunday, October 7 at 1:00 PM (CT) and will be televised live on ESPN at 2:00 PM (ET).