ADRIAN FERNANDEZ MIKE ZIZZO: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome everyone to the CART Media Teleconference presented by MCI WORLDCOM. Our guest today is Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing. Adrian is currently 7th in...
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ MIKE ZIZZO: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome everyone to the CART Media Teleconference presented by MCI WORLDCOM. Our guest today is Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing. Adrian is currently 7th in the Championship race despite missing four races due to an injury sustained during a practice session at the Detroit event. He has one victory this season. It came at Japan in Round 2 as well as six other Top-5 performances in the Tecate, Quaker State Patrick Ford Reynard. Adrian, thanks for joining us today. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you. My pleasure. MIKE ZIZZO: Before we get started, give us an overview of the season for you. You have had some ups and downs; the injury. You were going very strong there and had the injury and what your goal is at this stage of the season with two to go and 7th in the points. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Sure. Well, the season has been sort of a roller coaster for us. We had big hopes on the street; which, for us, didn't work and we had to make major adjustments at the beginning of the year changing to the Reynard which really proved to be very good to us. Unfortunately we didn't materialize the result, especially in Miami where we had an oil leak which prevented us from maybe winning the race. Then, of course, winning the race in Japan, that helped us a lot. We competed with a Swift in Long Beach; having a good result on Ford, but still we didn't see the potential so we kept the Reynard for the rest of the season and our 1999 Reynard didn't arrive until Portland where we can -- I mean, some of the races after Long Beach in the Reynard 1997, wasn't as good as we thought and I think that was due to the some of the aerodynamics changes on the 1999 that really was making the car better. So we were having a little bit of a deficit in that respect. After that, after we got the 1999 Reynard we really were working really well with the car. I was having good results. Our pit stops, they were not the best. We start working on them; tried to improve because every time, like in Portland, for example, we came into the pits and lost to Franchitti; the possibility of finishing third in the race. After that we were fairly competitive. We are improving our pit spots. Unfortunately then came the accident in Detroit where I fractured my right arm which has been the first bad injury which has prevented me from racing in my whole career. After that really was a matter of waiting which was a little frustrating because I have never been out of the seat for so long. In the same way it was nice to have a holiday, but it wasn't nice to see your car running by other drivers even though it was my good friend PJ Jones. It just feels different. Coming to Laguna Seca, it was very important to us. I wanted to get back for Vancouver but the doctors didn't allow me to do that. They wanted me to have a little bit more time because of the possible injuries that I could cause to my wrist. Then I think Laguna Seca was a very successful return for us. Unfortunately we had a very sad day of what happened with Gonzalo. After that we had a good race. We were having a good race in Houston. Unfortunately we had a problem with our cruise control in the pits where we exceeded the speed there on two occasions and we just managed to finish 12th. As you can see, the season has been very up-and-down but I think the potential of the team is right there. We are making -- the team is making some major changes. Pat Patrick and James McGee on the structure of the team. I am sure they are going to announce pretty soon who is going to be my teammate. I think all these things are going to help us establish the team as a top runner for the Championship in the year 2000. MIKE ZIZZO: Great. Adrian enters Surfers next week with five consecutive points paying finishes. He was 12th at Houston and 5th at Laguna upon his return from the injury. At this point we will open the floor for questions.
Q. There was a lot of hope and expectation on a lot of peoples' part on your behalf going into the 1999 season and I know in talking with you at the beginning of the year you really thought that this is going to be your breakout season. Now that you have got a couple of races left and you look back over the things that you just said, is there a point to where you just kind of shrug your shoulders and say: Gee, what happened, and how do you take this season and make a better season out of it in the year 2000? ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, mainly I think it was because I was a little bit concerned to be honest when we changed to the Swift because I had a bad experience with the Lola. Things were working good with what we had. Scott Pruett and I, we were working good with the Reynard Ford Firestone combination. We had the -- we were the best in the season, so, as a team I think we did the best result with what we had. This year the Swift -- we have a lot of hopes, as I say, that unfortunately, I think that was the bad point. Another bad point was that PJ Jones, my teammate, was working on the Swift and I was working on the Reynard and that didn't help as we were helping each other Scott and myself. I think that was the breaking point. What I am encouraged about even with all these problems and all these things that we had, we still -- I mean, if it wasn't for the Houston problem, we still would be fifth in the points. Every single race up to Houston because of that problem, we have finished every single race in the top 6. So, as a team, we have a lot of potential and next year that is not going to happen. Why is that? Because we are going to keep the Reynard Ford Firestone combination; both drivers are going to have the same. We are going to start right from the beginning. We know the team is good. There are going to be some changes to improve the team; not just on looks, but everything in preparation and in just little details and in the technical side, engineering side, and everything and John Ward is going to stay with me. But there is going to be other announcements on the changes that the team is doing. I believe that that is going to help a lot, the team, to challenge for the Championship. A big help, I think, will come also from Ford, from the engine. They are developing a brand new engine which has been -- it has been already tested by Moreno and the report that I hear are it is very encouraging, very good. The driveability of the engine has been a problem in the past and apparently this is one of the issues which this new engine is very good and very light. Hopefully this will be one of the key elements for us to be able to challenge for the 2000 Championship.
Q. How much input have you had on the changes that you have been talking about? ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, a lot also. Because the team is very receptive to ideas and I have been working with them in trying to find the problems. We know -- it is very obvious to know what the problems are in this year, but we need to go beyond what the problems are. We need to be better than what Target Team is doing and Team KOOL Green is doing. So we are trying to take this team even to the next two levels and, as I say, we need the help from our combination. We need a little bit of luck and in that respect is that the combination that we will have will be the best and that Ford will come forward to what we need to challenge for the Championship. So the team is very receptive. I have been working very well with them. They have taken some of my ideas to also apply it to the team and I am pretty excited for next year to be honest.
Q. Let us start off with Australia. You are going to be there next weekend. Where do you see your advantages going to be there? ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, the advantage that we had a good car last year. We had a car to finish in the top 4. We had a problem with the yellow, I remember that it was stretching -- actually some people came -- we came into the pits with some other guys and then they -- the guy who stayed out, there is no way that will make it to the end, but they had a break on the yellow at the end which helped them finish the race and one of those guys who was -- who got that lucky break was Scott Pruett who was running behind me and then stayed out on the track and finished ahead of us. But we were running in the top four, five. The car was pretty good. I think we can improve it this year. I am pretty excited to go back there; especially which is -- it is one of the countries that I love the most and I always enjoy going there. I am going tomorrow to spend a few days before the race and enjoy the beautiful area there which is -- people always are very nice with us when we get there.
Q. For next year is sponsorship for your car staying the same? ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, everything is the same which is good. It is good stability for us. We know with who we are. Tecate, our main sponsor is staying, and Quaker State the same. Telmex (ph.), telecommunications from Mexico is staying. As I say, the combination of Ford Firestone Reynard is going to be our combination next year. So everything is pretty much in place there. The Visteon Car is also set in that respect. It is also -- the team is going to make pretty soon an announcement of who is going to be my teammate next year.
Q. On that subject, can you tell us how Jan was as a teammate and is he in the running for that ride? ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I am sure. Yeah, he has been great. He is a good guy. He is a good teammate to be around. I have just worked with him for in two races, but it has been very positive. We have worked well together and the good thing is we have had the same chassis, so in that respect, I respect a lot Jan and I think he has done a good job. Unfortunately he had a little problem in Houston which he couldn't capitalize his good performance that he was doing there. There is other guys on the line, I mean -- yeah, on the line for a job there. Bryan Herta has been talking to the team. Roberto Moreno is talking to the team. John Magnussen and many others, but I believe these three, including PJ Jones, are some of the top candidates for next year to replace either PJ or maybe PJ will stay. MIKE ZIZZO: A quick not on Adrian. Adrian finished 6th at Australia last year. Adrian, we greatly appreciate your attendance today in joining us. Good luck at next weekend at the Honda Indy 300 in Queensland. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much, my friend. I will see you all in Australia. MIKE ZIZZO: We thank everyone for joining us today.
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