Fernandez Fastest Panoz G Force in Final Texas Tune-Up
FT WORTH, June 11, 2004 The 22 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competitors who qualified for Saturday night's Bombardier 500K contest at the 1.5-mile banked Texas Motor Speedway availed themselves of two practice sessions today in preparation for the 200-lap sprint that begins as dusk tomorrow night. When the cumulative hour and a half traffic jam was complete, Adrian Fernandez emerged as the fastest Panoz G Force driver, third overall in his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda. Fernandez' 24th lap in the earlier of two sessions at 210.598mph was second-best to Tomas Scheckter and ended up third to Sam Hornish Jr.
Fernandez, who has never raced in the night contest at Texas Motor Speedway admitted, "I was honestly just trying to learn my way around the track to get good reference on the high lines. I was trying to get comfortable running side-by-side and trying not to make too many moves. This track is about respect for the other guys," he realizes. "I tried to run in traffic so I could see what the car was doing."
By virtue of his quick time of 210.542mph, third in the initial practice Vitor Meira took fourth in the overall listings for his #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda. "The car felt good in traffic," Meira said. He knows "I'll be in traffic a lot since I'm coming from 13th but it is a long race and I need to have patience. I've run pretty well here before (3rd and 4th) and I think this team has an excellent chance to be at the front of the field again."
Meira's teammate Buddy Rice finished fifth for the day with a lap of 210.438mph also set in the first practice when he was fourth quickest. Rice thinks his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda "feels really good right now for the race," even though "the car was sliding around more than I wanted. In the second practice, we were planted in the rear and I could go around people on the outside," the Indy 500 winner said.
The Bombardier 500K takes the green flags shortly after 7PM CDT tomorrow evening and is race #4 in a 16-event campaign. The 200-lap contest is shown live in the United States on ESPN.