CLEVELAND, OHIO - SATURDAY, JULY 1, 2000 -- Round 9 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Roberto Moreno captured his first career CART pole today taking the top spot for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland on the temporary street circuit...
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SATURDAY, JULY 1, 2000 -- Round 9 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Roberto Moreno captured his first career CART pole today taking the top spot for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. Teammate Adrian Fernandez qualified ninth.
Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, began the day seventh on the provisional grid with a time of 58.189 seconds (130.293 mph). In the morning practice session the team continued to experiment with the set-up and therefore only ran a time of 58.536 seconds (129.520 mph), which placed Moreno tenth on the morning speed charts. However, the extra fine-tuning paid off in qualifying. Moreno was running between seventh and ninth place until the final five minutes of the session when he turned a fast lap of 57.436 seconds (132.001 mph), which vaulted him into first place. On his next lap he was running approximately .2 faster, but spun the car bringing out a red flag. Action resumed with just a couple of minutes remaining, and although it is doubtful that anyone could have eclipsed Moreno's time, the lack of time effectively nullified any chance of another driver getting up to speed and making a fast run.
"I thought the Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a shot at the pole after this morning's practice session. We were working on a quick lap this morning when I got blocked by Mauricio Gugelmin. The lap was going to be about .6 of a second quicker than anything I had done before, so right then I knew we were capable of competing for the pole. In qualifying we tired a few things at first, like I always like to do, but it really didn't work on our first set of tires. However, I saw some potential so we went out with an older set of tires and the car was faster. I told my engineer Ed Nathman to just put on a new set of tires and off we went. It was a great day for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. I am very proud to be part of this organization. I just hope tomorrow we can back it up with a good finish. I want to thank everybody who has supported me. It has been a very long time. I haven't had a competitive pole since 1998 in Formula 3000. I was telling Jim McGee (Patrick Racing General Manager), who was the guy who first talked to me from Patrick Racing, that my driving is all starting to come back to me. I am almost there in terms of being at my best. The more time I spend on the track the sharper both the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew and I become."
Moreno, who scored Patrick Racing's first pole since Scott Pruett achieved the feat at Fontana in 1998, had a previous best qualifying position of second in Rio de Janeiro in 1997. He is still seeking his first CART win. The 41-year-old Brazilian has qualified in the top ten-10 in eight of nine races this year. Moreno, who is on top of the championship standings for the first time in his seven-year CART career, now holds a two-point lead over Gil de Ferran, 69-67. Competing in just his third full CART season, and first with Patrick Racing, Moreno will be starting his 70th CART race tomorrow. He has finished six of eight races this year, each time in the top-10 including three podium showings, seconds at Miami and Portland and a third in Japan. Moreno will be racing at Cleveland for the fourth time. In three previous races his best finish is eighth (1999).
Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, was sixth on the provisional grid following Friday's qualifying session with a time of 58.180 seconds (130.313 mph). He struggled somewhat in the morning practice session as the team experimented with both the primary and back-up cars. His best time was in the primary car when he ran a 58.796 second (128.948 mph) lap. In qualifying he was steadily working his way up the grid. However, when Moreno spun with just minutes remaining Fernandez was on his fast lap. The lap was nullified, as was any chance of him moving up on the grid.
"The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing car was very good, but on every lap that I had a chance to post a good time something would happen; I would get caught in traffic or get a red flag. In the last three minutes we were going to go out and try and get one good lap, but we didn't have enough fuel in the car and I ran out. We are starting in the fifth row and this track is so wide that there are a lot of places to pass, so hopefully, we can get some luck tomorrow, take advantage of our opportunities and have a good result."
Fernandez is currently 11th in the championship race with 39 points just eight points out of sixth place. The 35-year-old Mexican has qualified in the top-10 in six of nine races, finished five of eight races, placed in the top-10 four times, including a win in Rio, and in the points five times this year. This will be the seventh time Fernandez has competed at Cleveland. In his six previous has finished in the top-10 three times with a best showing of fifth in 1998.
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland will be run on Sunday, July 2 at 1:00 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on ABC at 1:00 p.m. (ET)