CHAMPCAR/CART: Fernandez, Papis press conference, part I

An interview with Adrian Fernandez Max Papis Part 1 of 3 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us for this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're pleased to be joined today...

An interview with Adrian Fernandez Max Papis
Part 1 of 3

Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us for this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're pleased to be joined today by Adrian Fernandez, owner of Fernandez Racing and driver of the #51 Tecate/Quaker State /Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone.

Adrian was of course injured in the closing laps of the last CART FedEx Championship Series Molson Indy Vancouver. Over the course of the last week, he's been recovering from a hairline fracture of his left hip suffered in that accident. Actually it's an accident that Adrian has called the worst of his career. The injury will force Adrian to miss this weekend's race, the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.

We're also pleased to be joined today by the driver who will replace Adrian behind the wheel of the #51 car, Max Papis.

Adrian, we'll begin with you on the teleconference today. First of all, give us an update on your condition. How are you feeling? How is the rehabilitation going? If you could also tell us your feelings in bringing in a driver of Max's considerable skills as a replacement as you continue your recovery.

Adrian Fernandez: First of all, thank you everybody. It's good to be here. It's an important day for us. My recovery is getting better, even though we as athletes always want a quicker recovery than what we're having, even though the recovery is coming quicker than everybody expected.

It's very painful. I have to spend basically eight hours a day in massages and all types of electrostimulation in my skin to try to get the swelling down. A lot of exercise in the gym, in the pool, et cetera, et cetera. Every day I can feel that I'm moving more. I'm still very stiff. I still have a lot of swelling on my right leg and my butt.

But it's getting better, and I feel that if I keep improving the way I'm doing, hopefully I will be ready to get back in the car for Elkhart Lake. You never know. I'm treating every day as it comes, giving it my best effort, trying to rest as much as I can, trying to eat as healthy as I can and try to push as hard as I can without exceeding my body's limitations.

So I have the best group of people taking care of me. [CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant] Terry [Trammel, M.D.] has given me the best advice along with [CART Director of Medical Affairs] Steve [Olvey, M.D.]. I have Brett Fischer, which I think in my opinion is one of the best physiotherapists here in Phoenix, together with my trainer. They're giving me the best possible help and physiotherapy to get back as soon as possible.

In terms of Max [ Papis], well, [Fernandez Team Owners] Don Halliday and Tom Anderson, my partners, we were actually thinking, and I was thinking actually from day one, day two, when I had the accident, I mean, I was so hurt in that it was hard to believe that I could get back into the race car that soon. So that's when we started thinking. Everybody put their thoughts in. Everybody made sort of their list of people that they thought could take my place for the next race.

We all came up with the same name, which was Max. We all think that Max is a proven driver. I've been racing with him for so many years. He's the best driver available. He has a lot of experience. Unfortunately, he had some problems with his team and he couldn't continue the season but, I mean, it was very impressive what he did with such little resources, such a small team. I think that's what impresses everybody.

We thought that Max could help the team and lead the team together with [Fernandez Racing teammate] Shinji [Nakano] who has raced dramatically in the last three to four races, and lead us in a good way for Mid-Ohio. So I'm very pleased that Max was able to take the offer and join us for this next race.

Merrill Cain: Thanks, Adrian. With that let's bring in Max Papis. First all off, Max, congratulations on this great opportunity. It's obviously been an up-and-down season for you. You competed in the first five races of the season for Sigma Auto Sport, scoring 32 championship points. You had two podium finishes for really an underfunded team. You had to sit on the sidelines for the last five events, but now you get an opportunity to showcase your abilities again for Fernandez Racing in Mid-Ohio this weekend. It's also the place where you made your first Champ Car start back in 1996. Can you talk about this opportunity and what it means for you to get back on the racetrack?

Max Papis: First of all, let me tell you I'm extremely pleased to be here talking with you guys. Adrian, Tom and Don gave me great opportunity here. First of all, I hope Adrian is back in the car as soon as possible because being a replacement driver is not really the way I like to be in motor racing. Luckily it's a circumstance where Adrian is not really badly hurt and he's on his way to recovery. So I think that this is a great opportunity again to join a really professional team with a great fan base- maybe one of the greatest in CART now. I've been able to work with Honda since the first time in 1994 when I drove my first ever Formula 1 car for them in Team Lotus. So I feel that doing this right now and doing it in such a professional environment as Fernandez Racing and doing it at Mid-Ohio, where actually I had my race debut in 1996, is something that will make me very proud. I have a lot of race fans as well there. Hopefully we're going to join my fans and Adrian's fans together. If that happens, it might account for the whole crowd (laughter).

Merrill Cain: We have a number of journalists on the line here, both American and from south of the border as well. Let's open it up for questions.

Q: Adrian, are you visiting a facility here in Phoenix for your ongoing therapy or are they coming to your home in Paradise Valley?

Adrian Fernandez: I go visit a facility. It's south of Phoenix. I don't know if you have heard of Fishers Port. Brett Fischer is a guy that trains a lot of the guys from the [Arizona] Diamondbacks, and many other athletes. He's one of the top physiotherapists. He has his own business now. I commute every day. It's just 25 minutes, so it's not bad.

Q: What are you doing with Brett? Is it eight hours a day?

Adrian Fernandez: Well, I spend like three hours with him basically. They put these things, I can't remember the name, and they put this cream on top of you.

Max Papis: Electrostimulator.

Adrian Fernandez: That one (laughter).

They put it all on my body. Right now it's very hard. What they're trying to do is stimulate the blood. There is a lot of basically bad blood there that is basically dead, almost dead, and there's so much swelling there, they're just trying to relieve it and get it away from that area.

The swelling is going away. He puts me in heat and then in cold, with other types of stimulation. Then he has me do some exercises and some massages. But every day is different depending on how the injury is going.

I go to my club where I do a lot of exercise in the swimming pool. Then I do some exercise that I can do, for example, my upper body that is not hurt. I can keep my fitness level up. As far as cardiovascular, it's hard to keep it up because there is nothing really that I can do for it. I can do some cycling, but very low pace. So at the moment I'm just trying sort of to keep up with something so I don't lose too much.

I was in very good shape before the accident. I think that is helping me tremendously to get back.

Q: Are you using a cane or anything? Can you walk okay?

Adrian Fernandez: No, I'm using crutches. Because the fractures are on the left side of my hip, one close to the coccyx, to the pelvis, it's very uncomfortable to put weight on my left leg. I can put maybe 60% weight on the left leg and a hundred percent on the right one. I still have to walk with crutches at the moment.

Q: Max Papis has a good race in Mid-Ohio last year. He started in 26th and finish 9th. This is a good position to run the race. Did you consider this when you selected Papis?

Adrian Fernandez: Not really. I mean, we thought about Max, then we thought about what he's done there in the past, but it was just purely coincidence. I think giving him the proper equipment, he can be very quick everywhere.

Max has a very good foundation of fans and people since he drove with the former team [Rahal] in Mid-Ohio. He had good results there. I think at the end, it just worked perfectly. All of that was just a coincidence.

Merrill Cain: Max actually wound up I believe in the 24th position last year at Mid-Ohio. He does have a couple of top-five finishes at the course, if I'm not mistaken.

Max Papis: Absolutely. Mid-Ohio was the place where I made my debut and I finished fifth in '99, I think. You know, it is just something really special. Again, as I told you, to be back in the car after two months, it's a great honor. The other important thing is, I hold 32 points in the championship. I think that with few more points, maybe I can be back in the top 10 again (laughter).

Merrill Cain: You never know what might happen.

Max Papis: You never know.

Q: Adrian, are you going to be able to make it up here at all this weekend or are you going to have to stay in Phoenix? What's the projection as to when you'll be able to go back in the car?

Adrian Fernandez: Yeah, we thought about it. But it will be very bad for me to go to Mid-Ohio because it's a lot of flying time, it's a lot of downtime for me to recovering. There are a lot of things that I'm doing that I cannot do in Ohio. The following weekend is the next race. If I'm really trying to get back in the race car, those four, five days that I'll be there, I think I can use them very productively here in Phoenix just trying to get back in shape.

Q: Max, it's great to hear that you're coming back to Mid-Ohio. You're certainly right about all the fans you have here. At the CART town meeting last Thursday here in Columbus, Chris Pook mentioned he expects next year the car counts to be back up to the range of maybe 22, 24, several teams will be coming in. Have you been talking with anybody in particular about a ride for next year?

Max Papis: I'm a businessman, and at the same time I'm a sportsman. Of course, I've been looking around for different options for me for next year. But at the moment, I am 110% focused on Mid-Ohio to give the best results I can for Adrian's team. I know that Don Halliday, Tom and Adrian have been putting in a lot of effort up to now. I feel that their task for success is very similar to what has been my task for success this year.

At the beginning, we started with nothing, and we ended up third in the championship, actually placing on the podium twice. I feel that I want to give my 110% focus to bring home the best results I can. Of course, I've got people in places that are doing the talking, controlling what's happening in the market for me for the future.

Again, in the future, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe Adrian wants to have one more car in CART. For me next year, a lot of things are going to be up in the air. As I said, I'm a businessman. At the moment my only focus is doing the best I can for Fernandez Racing this weekend. If that is going to lead to something more for the future, it's something that is going to be more than welcome and I'm going to evaluate that in the best way I can.

Q: Do you know if it's possible you will be in Elkhart Lake?

Adrian Fernandez:  Well, if I go to race there, probably I will go
Thursday.  I will fly Thursday before the event.

Merrill Cain: I think she was asking when you would make that determination.

Adrian Fernandez: Sorry, sorry.

Well, basically it will have to be almost on Wednesday or Tuesday before that week. Hopefully after this week I will start getting better and better. I think right now if I would choose to go to Mid-Ohio, it was going to be the wrong decision. I'm still in a lot of pain. I can't imagine right now sitting in the race car.

But my body is improving considerably every day, as I said. So I hope to know something by next Monday. But every day I'm getting better, so probably even Wednesday or Tuesday of next week will be the time to start realizing if I'm close or not close to drive again.


Fernandez, Papis press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Tom Anderson , Chris Pook
Teams Team Lotus , ART Grand Prix