CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake: Fernandez Racing preview

Fernandez to attempt return at Road America. Nakano looks for Seventh Consecutive Finish in the Points Adrian Fernandez, who has been undergoing intensive physical therapy for injuries received in a multi-car crash at Vancouver, will attempt ...

Fernandez to attempt return at Road America. Nakano looks for Seventh Consecutive Finish in the Points

Adrian Fernandez, who has been undergoing intensive physical therapy for injuries received in a multi-car crash at Vancouver, will attempt to return to the #51 cockpit this week. Fernandez has missed one race since the July 28 incident, and was replaced by Max Papis at Mid-Ohio.

"Our plan is to go to Elkhart Lake with one car prepared for Adrian and one for Max," said Tom Anderson, co-owner and managing director. "We will put Adrian in the car for the first practice session on Friday and see how he fares. If he is unable to drive then Max will take over again this weekend."

Shinji Nakano hopes to continue his streak of points-paying finishes at Road America. Nakano has finished in the points the past six races, claiming four top-10 results including two top-five drives. He finished ninth at Mid-Ohio last weekend after starting 17th.

Adrian Fernandez, Owner/Driver -- #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone:

* Will be making his ninth Champ Car appearance at Elkhart Lake
* Has finished on the podium at Elkhart Lake the past three years -- third (2001), second (2000), third (1999)
* Has finished in the top six in six of eight starts at Elkhart Lake
* Claimed his best starting position of fifth at Elkhart Lake in 1999 and 2000
* Started 26th in last year's race at Elkhart Lake and finished third

On Elkhart Lake: "I am really looking forward to returning, but more than that I am looking forward to feeling good again. Sometimes, and this has happened to me before, you feel better in the race car than you do out of the car. I think I will be able to drive better than I can walk right now. I just hope there is no pain, or minimum pain. These all are unknowns until I jump in the car, but I am excited to go back.

"With my therapy, there are a lot of things that I am doing better but I still cannot put more than 50 percent of my weight on my left side and I am still very stiff. I still use crutches to get around. The swelling has gone down dramatically and the bruises are starting to disappear, but there is still some fluid there. I also found out that my left lower rib was bruised. Compared to where I was, however, I am much better. I can see the progress.

"Road America is one of my favorite tracks and I know it well. It is a very smooth track, which is good, and it's not as physical as Mid-Ohio. I will take it step by step. Max and the guys did a great job [at Mid-Ohio] in terms of trying to find more speed in the car and hopefully we can start at the next level this weekend. I'm excited and hope that excitement to get back in the race car gives me the adrenalin to be able to feel no pain this weekend."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his 156th Champ Car career start-- only owner/driver in current Champ Car field--currently ranked fifth among active drivers in career wins with seven-- is ranked 10th in CART all-time career starts-- currently sits 13th in the championship with 39 points-- has 46 career road course starts to his credit, finishing over half in the top 10-- three of his seven Champ Car career wins were on road/street circuits -- Australia (2000), Mid-Ohio (1998) and Toronto (1996).

Shinji Nakano, Driver -- #52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone:

* Will be making his third Champ Car appearance at Elkhart Lake
* Finished 15th at Elkhart Lake last year after starting 21st
* Started 23rd at Elkhart Lake in 2000, but retired with a transmission problem and was credited with 21st place
* Has finished in the points the past six events
* Claimed career-best road course finishes this season -- 10th at Cleveland and ninth at Mid-Ohio

On Elkhart Lake: "Road America is one of the best tracks in the United States. It is a long circuit with slow, medium and fast corners; it has a bit of everything. It is very challenging and fast. I really like the track. It reminds me of the Suzuka circuit in Japan. I didn't have a good race here the past two years, but I am confident for this weekend. Our car is getting better on the road courses, and we had a good test here. I think we can show a better performance on this road course, and I am looking forward to it."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his 49th career Champ Car start -- has made 16 career road course starts, claiming four points-paying finishes-- is in his third season of Champ Car competition, and second year with Fernandez Racing-- currently sits 14th in the championship with 37 points.

Fernandez Racing Team News:

Track Talk
David Janquart, lead mechanic on the #52 car piloted by Nakano, knows every bump and turn on the Road America circuit. Janquart grew up in Elkhart Lake and has been attending races there since the age of four when his parents worked as track volunteers. He has also competed at Road America in both karts and Formula Fords. And with more seat time on the challenging circuit than Nakano, rest assured Janquart will be offering up a few words of advice to his driver this weekend.

Do You Copy?
The longest road course on the FedEx Championship Series schedule, Road America is also the fastest. Top speeds will reach around 192 mph, with cornering speeds dropping to 60 mph heading into Turn Five.

Maintaining pit-to-car communication at Road America is a factor that teams have to contend with this weekend.

"We'll probably lose contact out of the Carousel in Turn Five and pick it up again at Canada Corner [Turn 12]," noted Chris Finch, assistant race engineer for Fernandez, on the black-out spot.

Trackside
Adrian Fernandez will join fellow Mexican drivers Michel Jourdain Jr. and Mario Dominguez for a press conference with Hector Rebaque, the first Mexican and first non-American driver to win a Champ Car race, at 12:30 pm on Saturday. Rebaque's landmark win came at Road America 20 years ago while driving a March 82C Cosworth for Forsythe Racing. Rebaque will serve as Grand Marshall for Sunday's Champ Car race.

"Hector is one of our heroes," said Fernandez. "As a kid, I remember Hector from when he used to race Formula One. When I decided to go to Europe to further my career, he was one of the guys that I went to see. He was very helpful and gave me letters of recommendation. He was always willing to help me."

Fernandez Racing Team Stats
Since entering the CART FedEx Championship Series in 2001, Fernandez Racing, headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., has claimed two pole positions and three podiums, and has posted six top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes in 30 races contested to date. Fernandez, Anderson and Don Halliday, the team's technical director and the race engineer for Fernandez, are the team owners.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Shinji Nakano , Mario Dominguez , Hector Rebaque , Tom Anderson , Michel Jourdain