HVM AND MINARDI DRIVERS COMPLETE FINAL CHAMP CAR RACE AT LONG BEACH
Long Beach, CA (April 21, 2008) - The 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is complete, and HVM and Minardi drivers EJ Viso, Nelson Philippe, and Roberto Moreno all had a race plagued by various misfortunes. EJ ended up 9th, Nelson 15th and Roberto did not finish the race, but was classified 17th at the checkered flag.
EJ had to start the race from the 14th position and had a tough battle to improve the five positions to 9th. He was working on saving fuel and keeping a steady pace, when unfortunately on lap 31 EJ was making his way through slower traffic, and he came upon Nelson who was preparing to enter the pits. The two came together but EJ's car suffered only minor damage and he was able to continue without any issues. The race was fairly smooth after that, with the exception of a stall in the pits, and he steadily improved his lap times as he turned the 3rd fastest lap of the race on lap 78. He did earn valuable points in the IndyCar Series Championship where he slips to 12th overall and 5th in the Bombardier LearJet Rookie of the Year standings.
Nelson started 7th and was running a good race in the same. Unfortunately, when he and EJ came together, Nelson stalled on the track and went a lap down. He couldn't recover after that and drove his own race, determined to see it to the end. Team manager Vince Kremer told him in the closing laps as the steering wheel was getting heavier and heavier, "Class In, Class Out, Class Act, bring it home." That he did.
Roberto Moreno was driving an impressive race until his DP01 once again suffered a mechanical failure, which caused him to lose drive and forced him to retire. He was running as high as 1st and making steady progress, but his day sadly ended prematurely. As always, the veteran maintained his always positive attitude and was pleased to be a part of Champ Car's historical last race.
"Well, we finished 9th, and this is what happens when you qualify in the back. That is why qualifying is very important. Other than that, I am very happy with the behavior of the car. During the middle of the race, when I had on the red (Bridgestone "Option") tires, my car was slower. Then we put on the black tires and I was flying, nobody was quicker than me on the track at that point. In one of the pit stops I had a problem coming in and stalled the car, which didn't help me either. I feel bad that while in slower traffic I came upon Nelson (Philippe) and we just clipped each other and he spun. I do feel bad, as he's my team-mate."
"Today is not a day reflective of my Champ Car career, it was a pretty disappointing day. The car's steering was too heavy and I have big blisters on my hands. The first stint was okay, I had the red (Bridgestone "Option") tires on and they went off too early, so that didn't help us. Right before we were supposed to pit, Viso took me out and pretty much ruined my day. It's too bad because the number one rule in racing is ‘don't take out your team-mate.' After that it was quite hard running the race by myself a lap down. In the back of my mind I was a bit angry. I did the best I could, and at the end of the race, I tried to do two laps to see how quick I could go, and got the 8th fastest lap. Again, thank you to Keith for trusting me and I hope we can do this again. Thanks also to all the Champ Car fans who came out in support of us today."
"Overall we had a great weekend, because coming here without driving for a few years was tough, and I think I caught up very quickly The team helped me to do that. They put a car together for me very quickly. There are some good sides and bad sides to the weekend, however. On the positive side, it was very good to be back racing and see how quick I could get up to speed. On the bad side, I can see that all that is missing is the opportunity. I am chasing the opportunity to drive and my next goal is to try and do (the) Indy (500)."
Keith Wiggins, Team Owner:
"Well, we went from having two extremely fast race cars to the two of them having a coming together which dictated the outcome of the race. It's pretty disappointing to end up where we did. Roberto was also having a good race until he had a mechanical issue. All around it wasn't a good day but as always we'll just move on."
HVM is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. In its 7 years of competition in the Champ Car World Series, the team has earned 6 wins, 2 pole positions, and an additional 16 podiums since 2001 when Keith Wiggins took over Bettenhausen Motorsports. They finished 4th and 3rd, respectively, in Championship standings in 2006 and 2007 and drivers Mario Dominguez and Robert Doornbos were named Rookie of the Year in 2002 and 2007, respectively.