SURFERS PARADISE, QUEESNLAND, AUSTRALIA - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2000 - Round 19 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez moved to within five points of first place in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series title race with a thrilling ...
SURFERS PARADISE, QUEESNLAND, AUSTRALIA - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2000 - Round 19 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Adrian Fernandez moved to within five points of first place in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series title race with a thrilling victory at the Honda Indy 300 on the temporary street circuit in Surfers Paradise, Australia. Teammate Roberto Moreno fell victim to a crash while running in third place and finished 19th.
Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, started 17th, but was on the move from the green flag. He picked up four places on the opening lap when he managed to avoid a pile-up that knocked several of the series leaders out of the race. Running in 13th position he pitted early when the second yellow flag of the race came out on lap 12. With the race scheduled for three pit spots, two full pit stops and a short stop for a splash of fuel at the end, Patrick Racing decided, because of their low qualifying position, to pit on an early yellow in an attempt to gain track position when the leaders pitted later. Rejoining the competition in 15th place, Fernandez held station until the leaders made their first pit stops between laps 24 and 26. At the conclusion of the stops, Fernandez found himself in fourth place where he remained until his second stop for fuel and tires on lap 36. He reentered the contest in 11th place, with the leaders scheduled for one, and possibly two more stops. Fernandez was looking at a possible short stop with five laps remaining unless he could get incredibly good fuel mileage or some help with yellow flags. When the first, of what would later prove to be several, yellow flags came out on lap 43, Patrick Racing decided to gamble. Per instructions by phone from team owner U. E. "Pat" Patrick, who remained in the Untied States on urgent team business, the team decided not to pit for additional fuel. The gamble paid off as the leaders took the opportunity to pit for their second, and final, stop, vaulting Fernandez into the lead. Several additional yellows provided him with the extra mileage necessary to finish the race as well as the race being shortened by six laps due to time constraints. Fernandez led the final 17 laps of the contest to earn an extra point for most laps led giving him a total of 21 points on the day.
"This was a great victory for the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team. We struggled all weekend and didn't qualify well here, but the Patrick Racing team never gave up. We had a great strategy and we took a calculated risk at the end when we decided not to pit for fuel and the last two yellow flags helped us a lot. This is just fantastic. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing crew did an outstanding job and we are in a position to win the championship at Fontana. We know how to win in Fontana because we have done it before so that gives us some extra confidence going into the race. We just have to keep doing what we have been all year. We have to be patient, consistent and finish races."
The victory here at Surfers Paradise is Fernandez' second of the season and seventh of his CART career. It also makes him the first driver to win in all five countries and on all four continents that the FedEx Championship races. He won in Canada at the Molson Indy Toronto in 1996; has victories at Mid-Ohio (1998) and Fontana (1999) in the United States; took the checkered flag in Japan in 1998 and 1999; and won in Brazil and Australia this year. Fernandez, who extended his streak of points paying finishes to 12 in a row, trails series leader Gil de Ferran 153-148 in the points race. The 35-year-old Mexican, who is the hottest driver on the circuit, has placed in the top-10 in ten of his last 12 races while compiling seven top-six finishes in his last ten races with five top five showings and four podiums. Fernandez has tallied points in 16 of his last 17 starts. He has finished 16 of 19 races this year (the most of any driver) each time in the points. The eight-year CART veteran, who is in his third season with Patrick Racing, has 14 top-10 showings (tied for first) including seven top-five finishes (tied for second) with five podium appearances (tied for third) and two wins (Rio - tied for fourth). The Paradise Valley, Arizona resident is first in miles (3849.922) and laps (2351) completed, and tenth in laps led (90). Fernandez has qualified in the top-10 in eight of 19 races and five of eleven road/street circuits.
Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, had an equally exciting if less satisfying day. Starting 20th, his lowest qualifying position of the season, he moved into 17th place following the first lap crash. The team then opted to bring him in on lap three to top off fuel in an effort to stay out later and gain track position when the leaders made their first round of stops. The quick stop only cost him four positions. When the second yellow came out on lap 12, the team accessed the situation and decided to double down their bet and pitted again for fuel. This put the Visteon/Patrick Racing team back in sequence with one group of cars and out of sequence with the leaders. With Moreno running in 18th place the leaders pitted for the first time. By the end of the stops, Moreno was in eighth place where he remained until his second stop on lap 36. He rejoined the competition in 14th place. After the leaders pitted for the second time during the yellow on lap 43, Moreno found himself in third place and in the same situation as his teammate. He needed to conserve fuel or get some yellows to finish the race on the podium. Unfortunately, that is when disaster struck. On the restart from the yellow flag, Moreno accelerated too quickly on cold tires, spinning his car into the wall and ending his day.
"Basically, I was trying to save fuel so I wasn't working my tires during the yellow flag and keeping them hot. Then coming out of the corner I accelerated and when the turbo kicked in I couldn't hold the car. It is really a shame. We came all the way from the back up to the front and had a good chance for a podium finish, which would have put us in a solid position for the championship. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a great job again in the pits and Mr. Patrick (by phone) and Jim McGee had a great strategy for the race. I just wasn't up to it today. It just wasn't meant to be. We certainly are going to come back strong at Fontana and also next year. It has been a great season for me. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has done a great job to put me up front in the championship and give me a chance to fight for the title with drivers that have a lot more experience then I have in competitive cars."
Moreno is now tied for fifth in the championship standings with 131 points. The 41-year-old Brazilian is 22 points behind series leader Gil de Ferran giving him a mathematical chance to win the championship. He would have to take the pole, leads the most laps and wins the season finale in Fontana and several other drivers do not finish. The seven-year CART veteran, who is competing in just his third full season, has had a career year in his first season with Patrick Racing. He led the championship standings for the first time in his seven-year CART career earlier this season for almost a month, and captured his first CART victory and pole (both at Cleveland). 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. The Weston, Florida resident has finished 13 of 19 races this year (tied for sixth), each time in the points with 11 top-10 showings (fifth) including seven top five finishes (tied for second) and five podium appearances (tied for third) with one victory (tied for seventh). Moreno is third in laps completed (2326), fourth in miles completed (3752.051), and fifth in laps led (138).
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California, October 27-29.