ADRIAN FERNANDEZ IS MIRED IN A TIGHT BATTLE TO CAPTURE SECOND PLACE IN THE 1998 DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP AND, IF HE DOES, HAS PROMISED TO FOOT THE BILL FOR HIS CREW TO SPEND SOME TIME IN HIS NATIVE COUNTRY OF MEXICO VACATIONING IN CANCUN. FERNANDEZ...
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ IS MIRED IN A TIGHT BATTLE TO CAPTURE SECOND PLACE IN THE 1998 DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP AND, IF HE DOES, HAS PROMISED TO FOOT THE BILL FOR HIS CREW TO SPEND SOME TIME IN HIS NATIVE COUNTRY OF MEXICO VACATIONING IN CANCUN. FERNANDEZ SPENT SOME TIME TALKING ABOUT THE MOVE TO PATRICK RACING, HIS IMMEDIATE SUCCESS WITH THE TEAM IN JAPAN AND WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO HIM TO FINISH SECOND IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, -40- TECATE/QUAKER STATE REYNARD FORD-COSWORTH -- IN HOUSTON YOU HAD THOUSANDS OF FANS FROM YOUR HOME COUNTRY OF MEXICO, DRESSED IN TEAM UNIFORMS, WEARING ADRIAN FERNANDEZ HATS AND WAVING FLAGS. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE? "It's a great feeling. In Mexico, in particular, because of the success I have had, there has really been an increase in the following of my career and CART as a series. In Mexico we don't have many athletes or many sports like there are in the United States. So, CART has been able to grow there even though there is not a race in Mexico, and the following has been tremendous."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH PAT PATRICK AND JIM MCGEE? "They have experience winning. Pat takes care of the business from the top, making sure they have the key personnel and the key drivers in place and manages from there. Jim McGee brings a lot of experience to the team. He is always bringing a positive attitude to the team, even on the worst days. When we are not doing well he is always available and is always working with the team to find a solution to any problem we may have. I also really enjoy working with Steve Newey and the entire engineering staff. I think the team is very good, but I think we can improve it and I am confident that we will do it next year. All you have to do is look at a team like Ganassi and the accomplishments they have had over the years. Being able to keep the team together was a big part of that success.
WHAT HAVE THEY LEARNED FROM YOU? "Well, I like to think I bring an enthusiastic attitude to the team and am a very hard worker in everything I do, both on the racing side and on the business side. I think everybody was surprised at how good I was as a driver right out of the box. I think it's very difficult to put your finger on one or two things, but everything I have learned from my past experiences has helped. We have not had the consistency of the other top teams, but we are pretty close to being the second best team out there on any given weekend with Scott (Pruett) and myself.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS ABOUT NOT HAVING SCOTT PRUETT AS A TEAMMATE NEXT YEAR? "What I admire most about him is that he is a very tough competitor. He is a very nice person to be around. We have never had a problem between us and when we do have an issue with one in other, we talk about it right away. We really work well together in making the cars better even though we compete against each other we also know that it is in the best interest of the team to work together. I think there is a comfort level here that I feel with him, but I also think I will have that same feeling next year with P.J. (Jones).
YOU ARE CURRENTLY ENGAGED IN A VERY TIGHT BATTLE FOR SECOND PLACE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP (BEHIND VASSER AND FRANCHITTI), WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO FINISH SECOND? "It would mean a lot. Especially after the last few seasons where I have been finishing 12th in the points, which was the highest I have ever finished. So second place would mean a lot. I am really trying hard to get it. The guys who I am trying to beat are very good. Franchitti is on the rise and Vasser is in a very strong position with his team. It's not going to be easy, but it would be a great thing for the team. Because success often leads to better things the next year. It would give us a great boost to make another run for the championship next year. Plus, I told the crew that if we finish second I will take them all to Cancun for a vacation. They really like that idea."
DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AT PREVIOUS RACES AND WONDER IF YOU WOULD STILL BE GIVING ZANARDI A RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS IF YOU HADN'T HAD A FEW BOUTS OF BAD LUCK ALONG THE WAY? "It's difficult to say that because it happens to every driver. I don't like to go back, I just like to look to into the future and try to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes this year it's been my mistake, other times its been the engine, other times its been the chassis or mechanical problems and we just have to learn for it. You just have to try to minimize the mistakes and the errors every year. Every team out there is very good, very competent and the team that can minimize the mistakes throughout the year and stays consistent is going to be the guy who wins the championship and that's what has happened with Zanardi this year. Jimmy (Vasser) has been consistent as well and Dario (Franchitti) has been picking it up this year during the second half of the season that's why now he is third. We are the fourth most consistent drivers if you look at it that way. You could say that Greg Moore should be winning the championship this year, but he hasn't, why, because he has been crashing, or having mechanical problems along with some other things. But that's part of racing and you have to live with it. That's the hard part of racing, the highs are very high and the lows are very low."
WHAT WILL THE 1999 CART SEASON BE LIKE WITH THE DEFENDING CHAMPION GONE TO FORMULA ONE? "Look at the way Dario Franchitti has been driving lately, he is very dominant. Like Zanardi was at the beginning of the year. I think if anything it is going to make it more interesting because everyone is going to want to know who is going to step into the shoes of Zanardi. It could be Fernandez, it could be Moore, or Franchitti and who is going to have the right combination."
IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT YOU WANTED PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT ADRIAN FERNANDEZ THAT THEY MAY NOT KNOW NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE? "I would want them to know that I work really hard and that I am not just a race driver, but a business man as well and I that find all of my sponsors on my own. I am very pleased to be one of the only drivers that has been able to prove that we can find the support and sponsorship deals, handle our careers and win races at the same time."