CICERO, ILLINOIS - SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2001 -- Round ...
CICERO, ILLINOIS - SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2001 -- Round #12 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Hard work and persistence paid off today as Visteon/Patrick Racing qualified both cars in the top-10 for tomorrow's Target Grand Prix at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Illinois.
Jimmy Vasser in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard will start sixth while Roberto Moreno, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, will lineup seventh. This is the fourth time this season that Patrick Racing has qualified both cars in the top-10 (Mexico - Vasser ninth, Moreno 10th; Detroit - Vasser fifth, Moreno seventh; Portland - Moreno eighth, Vasser ninth).
Saturday morning practice, which was run in two groups based on points, proved to be a harbinger of things to come as the Visteon/Patrick Racing team came out strong. Moreno started the day 20th on the combined speed charts following Friday's two practice sessions with a fast time of 24.192 seconds (153.125 mph). Driving with the first group in Saturday morning practice he ran the seventh fast time of his session turning a quick lap of 23.596 seconds (156.993 mph). Although the weather conditions were cooler, which accounted for some of the increased speed, there was no question that the Visteon/Patrick Racing team had vastly improved the car from the previous day.
Further evidence of the team's gains came in the second session. Vasser, who was 21st on the combined speed charts after Friday practice with a time of 24.199 seconds (153.125 mph), picked up where Moreno left off. He turned a lap of 23.201 seconds (159.666 mph) making him the fastest in his group and putting him at the top of the speed charts when both sessions where combined. Moreno ended up 16th on the practice report.
In qualifying, Vasser, who has been the victim of circumstances a couple of times in qualifying already this season, once again ran into a bit of bad luck. Oval qualifying is run in inverse order of the championship points. With 14 drivers having already posted times a light rain began to fall forcing a halt to the session.
Jet blowers were immediately dispatched to dry the track and after a short delay qualifying resumed. The first two drivers to make their runs were Christian Fittipaldi and Vasser. Both drivers commented that the track was very slippery possibly due to some oil that the jet dryer had put on the track. Despite the handicap, Vasser was still able to post a very respectable time of 23.317 seconds (158.871 mph) placing him on the outside of Row #3.
"Overall I think the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a good qualifying run, but I am disappointed because I thought we would do better," Vasser said. "We had a good car this morning so I thought we had a chance of qualifying very well this afternoon. I think the jet blower put some kind of oil on the track because the car was squirming. The track started to get better the longer I was out, but I was sliding around during most of my run. The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was good, but the track was slippery from whatever was coming out of the jet blower. I guess it's just the luck of the draw. We have a good car for the race and I have had some success here in the past, so hopefully we can have a good performance tomorrow," Vasser concluded.
Vasser will be starting in the top-10 for the sixth time in 12 races this year. He has now qualified in the top-10 at all three Target Grand Prix races (1999- third; 2001 - ninth). The 35-year-old native of California, who has finished in the top-10 twice at Chicago with a best showing of third at the inaugural event in 1999 (he placed eighth last year), is one of two drivers to score points at both previous Target Grand Prix races.
Vasser, who is ninth in the championship standings with 50 points, is trying to end a streak of misfortune that has seen him finish in the points once in his last six races. The Las Vegas resident has finished in the top-five four times this year and has placed in the top-six in five of ten races (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth; Cleveland - fifth). He has finished in the top-five in two of the four oval races this year (Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth).
In 62 CART career oval starts, Vasser has finished in the points 45 times with 42 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podium appearances and five wins.
He has finished 91 of his last 113 races placing in the points 86 times (dating to Milwaukee '95)
Moreno, who ran a fast time of 23.327 seconds (158.803 mph) in qualifying, equaled his highest starting position of the season (seventh in Detroit). The native of Brazil, who lines up on the inside of Row #4, has now qualified in the top-10 five times this year and will be starting in the top-10 for the second time in three races at Chicago Motor Speedway (started eighth in 1999).
"I am very happy with our qualifying performance today," Moreno said. "The #20
Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a good job. We had a car that wasn't that good at the start of this weekend, but my engineer, David Dembicki and the team did a great job improving the car each time out. We also got quite a bit of help from Jimmy (Vasser). I am very happy with the way the Visteon/Patrick Racing team worked together this weekend. It really paid off today. I think we have a good racecar and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race," Moreno explained.
The Weston, Florida resident will be trying to add to a solid record of success here in Chicago as he tries to get back into the top-10 in the standings and rejoin the fight for the championship. Moreno, who is the only other driver to finish in the points in the previous two Target Grand Prix races, has also finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of sixth last year (he placed ninth in 1999).
Currently 12 in the standings with 44 points, Moreno will be attempting to extent a streak that has seen him finish nine of the ten races and place in the points in eight of his last nine races and eight of the ten events this year. He has been the most reliable and consistent driver during the first half of the season completing the most races, the second most laps and miles. Moreno has placed in the points in eight of his last nine races and on three of the four ovals this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second; Cleveland - eighth; Toronto - 11th; Michigan - 12). He has finished in the points in 14 of his last 18 oval races with ten top-10 finishes, six top-five performances and four podiums. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 22 of his last 43 starts and in the points 30 times.
The Target Grand Prix will be run on tomorrow Sunday, July 29 at 3:00 PM (CT) and will be televised live on ABC.