FT. WORTH, TEXAS - SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2001 -- Round ...
FT. WORTH, TEXAS - SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2001 -- Round #3 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser qualified 22nd while teammate Roberto Moreno will start 24th for tomorrow's inaugural Firestone Firehawk 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Despite the disappointing qualifying performance the team remains very upbeat about their chances in the race and for good reason. Over the last two years Patrick Racing has not qualified particularly well on ovals, but has had remarkable strong results in the races. Last year the team's average starting position was 11.66 while their average finishing position was 7.5. The disparity in qualifying versus finishing position is attributable to three factors.
One, Patrick Racing works extensively on race set-ups during practice and therefore the cars perform better in the race than they do in qualifying.
Two, the experience of Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee in calling race and fuel strategy invariably has the Patrick Racing cars in the top ten, and on the lead lap by the middle of an oval race.
Three is Patrick Racing's outstanding oval record over the last five years. Since the team's return to CART competition in 1995 it has been particularly strong. There have been 46 ovals races since 1995. Patrick Racing cars have started 79 times. They have 48 top-10 finishes, 28 top-five showings, five victories (Scott Pruett - Michigan - '95; Adrian Fernandez - Japan - '98; Fernandez - Japan - '99; Fernandez - Fontana - '99; and Fernandez - Rio - '00) and four poles (Raul Boesel - St. Louis - '97; Pruett - Michigan - '97; Fernandez - Michigan - '98; and Pruett - Fontana - '98).
With these factors in mind, both the drivers and crews are extremely excited and motivated for tomorrow's competition.
Vasser, in the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, began the day 18th on the combined practice report with a fast time of 23.219 seconds (229.777 mph). In the morning practice that preceded qualifying he continued to improve his time, as he has done all weekend, turning a fast lap of 23.116 seconds (230.801 mph).
The time was the 20th fastest of the morning practice session and put him 21st on the final combined practice report going into qualifying. In qualifying, Vasser gave it all he had, but could only muster a fast lap of 23.479 seconds (227.233 mph).
Following his qualifying run Vasser focused on the upcoming race saying, "The Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard is a good car. It is real free, run's well on full tanks and in traffic. I think we have a good car for the race. This is a new track for us. Physically it is not bad, but mentally it is very draining. You are always turning, always turning and everything happens very quickly, so you have to keep your eyes open. It should be a fun race tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it."
Vasser, who is currently in fifth place in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series standings, is looking to continue the success he has enjoyed during his first two outings with Patrick Racing. He has placed in the top six in both starts, finishing sixth in Mexico and fifth in Long Beach. The 1996 CART Champion is the winner of five oval victories, most recently at Fontana in 1998, in nine plus seasons of CART competition. In nine oval races in 2000 he finished in the top-10 five times with two top-five showings and one podium performance. Over the last two years he has 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts with five top-five placements and two podiums. The 35-year-old native of California is working on a streak that seen him finish 87 of his last 105 starts placing in the points 83 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995). In 149 starts, he has 88 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles.
Moreno, pilot of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, began the day 23rd on the combined practice report with a time of 23.361 second (228.381). In morning practice he was also able to improve his time running a quick lapof 23.100 seconds (230.961 mph), which was the 19th fastest time of the session and put him 20th place on the final combined practice report.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard is a fantastic race car, but somehow we got it a little wrong for qualifying today," Moreno said. "The car handles very well and I was flat all the way around the track, but we lost some speed this morning and it continued into qualifying. We don't know what it is yet, but I am sure the Visteon/Patrick Racing team will come up with the answer before tomorrow's race," Moreno explained. "The Visteon/Patrick Racing team always has a good strategy for the oval races, so once again I will be relying on Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee to get me up toward the front where I can race for the win," Moreno concluded.
Moreno's average qualifying position in 2000 was 10.66. His average finish was 7.11. He had the two best oval performances, and best 500-mile oval finish, of his career last year, placing second at Homestead and Fontana. He was also the most consistent oval competitor in 2000 scoring the most points on ovals of any active driver. In nine ovals races during the 2000 season Moreno had seven finishes in the top-10 with five top-five performances including four podium showings. He has finished in the points in 11 of his last 14 oval starts dating back to the 1999 season. The 42-year-old native of Brazil has one points paying finish in the first two races of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, an 11th place showing at Long Beach. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 35 starts and in the points 23 times.
The Firestone Firehawk 600 will be run on Sunday, April 29 at 2:00 p.m. (CT) and will be televised live on ESPN.