HOUSTON, TEXAS - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2000 - Round 18 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez utilized a daring pit strategy to finish seventh, while teammate Roberto Moreno fell victim to a loose seat belt and finished 11th today...
HOUSTON, TEXAS - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2000 - Round 18 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez utilized a daring pit strategy to finish seventh, while teammate Roberto Moreno fell victim to a loose seat belt and finished 11th today at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston.
Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, started 16th. However, when there were two yellow flags right at the beginning of the race the team decided to gamble and pit for a splash of fuel on lap 10. The stop dropped them to 19th, but shortly thereafter, Fernandez was back up to 17th. As a result of the early stop Fernandez was able to pit for the second time several laps later than the rest of the field, on lap 55 as compared to 45-48, and by the end of the round of pit stops the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth was in ninth place. Shortly thereafter, Fernandez passed Moreno for eighth place and eventually moved into seventh place on lap 79. Unfortunately, several yellow flags during the second half of the race allowed the leaders to conserve enough fuel to finish the race in one stop otherwise the Patrick Racing pit strategy could easily have produced a top-three finish if not a victory.
"This morning in the warm-up the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Coswoth had some engine problems so we didn't get a chance to try some of the things we wanted. In the race I made a couple of mistakes when I was behind Roberto (teammate Roberto Moreno), but I was able to recover. Then I passed another car and we made up some places with our pit strategy. At the end of the race the car was good. My second set of Firestone tires were very good. I really didn't have anybody pushing me from behind so I wasn't too worried and I was just trying to push Christian Fittipaldi a little bit. The worst part was it was very hot and my drink bottle in the car wasn't working. Then something went wrong with my earplugs and it got so noisy I started getting a headache. That just added to what was a very physical race. To be honest I am just glad to be out of the car. I am happy with the result because it was a very physical race and the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team was able to come from way back in the field to score some very valuable points for the championship."
Fernandez, who extended his streak of points paying finishes to 11, is now tied for fourth with Michael Andretti in the FedEx Championship Series standings with 127 points. However, since Andretti has more victories he holds down the number four spot while Fernandez is listed as fifth. The 35-year-old Mexican is just seven points out of second place and 26 points out of first. He has placed in the top-10 in nine of his last 11 races while compiling six top-six finishes in his last nine races with four top five showings and three podiums. He has tallied points in 15 of his last 16 starts. Fernandez has finished 15 of 18 races this year (the most of any driver) each time in the points. He has 13 top-10 showings including six top-five finishes with four podium appearances and one win (Rio - tied for sixth). The Paradise Valley, Arizona resident has qualified in the top-10 in eight of 18 races and five of nine road/street circuits.
Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, qualified 14th. Utilizing the same race and pit strategy as his teammate he moved into the top-10 just after the midway point of the race. Unfortunately, he ran into some bad luck that prevented him from fully reaping the benefits of the strategy. Moreno pitted on lap 10 for the splash and came in for his second stop on 54. When he rejoined the contest he was running in eighth place and poised to finish at least that high. However, shortly thereafter he reported that his left shoulder seat belt had come unfastened. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team immediately called him in, checked for malfunctions and refastened the belt, but by then Moreno had gone down a lap to the field and was running in 15th place. Showing determination and championship spirit he battle his way back and when there was a four car pile-up on lap 78, Moreno found himself back in the points sitting in 11th place. Misfortune struck again with eight laps remaining in the race when the same belt worked its way loose for the second time. This time Moreno decided to stick it out and while using his left leg to brace himself gutted out the final laps to earn two valuable championship points.
"It was a difficult race for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. We started way in the back, but Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee played a great race strategy and we were looking good for a seventh or eighth place finish. Then my seat belt came undone and one strap of the belt came off. So I came straight into the pits and we lost a lap trying to fix it. I went back out and the Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth was fantastic. Then toward the end of the race the belt came loose again. So, I only had the waist belt and one shoulder belt. I decided to continue to the end of the race, but I had to use my left leg to hold myself steady in the car. It tightened up a little, but I am okay. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a good job preparing the car and in the pits. We are still in third place in the points and are still in the fight for the championship. We just are going to have to go out and have strong performances the last two races of the season."
Moreno dropped one place in the FedEx Championship Series standings to third with 131 points. He is three points out of second place, but stayed within striking distance of series lead trailing Gil de Ferran by 22 points. The 41-year-old Brazilian, who has been among the points leaders all season, has finished in the top-10 in four of his last seven races and placed in the points six times. The Weston, Florida resident has finished 13 of 18 races, each time in the points with 11 top-10 showings including seven top five finishes and five podium appearances with one victory. He has qualified in the top-10 in nine of 18 races.
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Honda Indy 300, October 13-15, in Sufers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.