CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford Racing Motegi Preview

FedEx Championship Adrian Fernandez, driver of the Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth for Patrick Racing and defending Firestone Firehawk 500 race winner, hopes that taking last year's race-winning car back to Japan's Twin Ring Motegi will pay ...

FedEx Championship

Adrian Fernandez, driver of the Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth for Patrick Racing and defending Firestone Firehawk 500 race winner, hopes that taking last year's race-winning car back to Japan's Twin Ring Motegi will pay similar dividends.

Fernandez plans on catching up on a few Hollywood movie hits on his trip across the Pacific and, upon arriving in Japan, relishes the opportunity to spend some time with the country's CART Champ Car fans. One thing is for sure, though, regardless of what many around him think, he'll do just fine without the stomach virus which he took with him to victory lane last year.

Adrian Fernandez -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - LAST YEAR, IN ONLY YOUR SECOND RACE SINCE JOINING PATRICK RACING, YOU MANAGED TO WIN THE INAUGURAL CART RACE AT TWIN RING MOTEGI, JAPAN. WHAT KIND OF MOMENTUM BOOST WAS IT TO YOU AND THE TEAM TO GET OFF TO SUCH A FAST START? "It helped us a lot. We were able to carry the momentum that we had from Homestead. Last year we finished fifth in Homestead and then we won in Japan and went to Long Beach and finished fourth. So that gave us a lot of momentum to start the year, and from there we took the lead in the championship early on in the season. Coming from a terrible year in 1997, to a good team with good people where you basically have to prove yourself and make the guys (on the team) feel confident that you are the right guy for the job. It really helped a lot winning in Japan."

WHAT PRESSURE COMES WITH BEING THE DEFENDING RACE CHAMPION, AND DO YOU SEE THAT AS A BENEFIT TO YOU? DOES THAT MAKE YOU PUSH EVEN HARDER? OR, IS ALL OF THE EXTRA ATTENTION THAT IS GOING TO BE ON YOU THIS WEEKEND IN JAPAN DETER FROM YOU BEING ABLE TO FOCUS ON DRIVING? "No, not at all, actually I think I am going to enjoy it a lot. I am very confident that we are going to do well and I think it is going to be a great experience to go back there as the defending race champion. I can't wait to get back there and get in the car and bring back the memories from last year and with any luck everything will go a smoothly as it did last year."

RAIN PLAYED A PART IN LAST YEAR'S EVENT IN JAPAN WHEN SATURDAY'S QUALIFYING WAS COMPLETELY RAINED OUT. SOME OF THE TEAMS HAD SCHEDULED A TEST IN JAPAN PRIOR TO THE RACE, BUT YOU WERE NOT ONE OF THEM. HOW MUCH OF A PROBLEM WAS IT TO LOSE THAT VALUABLE TRACK TIME HAVING ONLY LIMITED EXPERIENCE ON THAT TRACK? "It didn't really hurt us. Some of the other teams had gone there to test, but we really didn't have much of a problem. We had a really good car as soon as we took it on to the track. The car was very strong and it was really strong in the race. Maybe we could have made it better, but we had a really strong car from the start of the weekend."

FOR THIS YEAR'S RACE, WILL YOU BE TAKING THE 98 REYNARD CHASSIS OR THE 99 SWIFT CHASSIS TO JAPAN? "The 98 Reynard."

HOW MUCH OF AN EDGE WILL IT BE TO COMPETE IN JAPAN IN PROVEN EQUIPMENT, KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE A NOTEBOOK OF INFORMATION TO RELY ON RATHER THAN STARTING OUT WITH A CLEAN SHEET OF PAPER? "It will be big. It will be like Homestead, if it were not for the problem we had we would have for sure been second but most likely first. Hopefully it will be the same for Japan."

HAS YOUR DRIVING STYLE CHANGED SINCE YOUR WIN IN JAPAN LAST YEAR, AND IF SO, DOES IT LEND ANYTHING TO HELPING YOU CONTEST FOR THE WIN THIS YEAR? "The one thing you learn is patience. It's just experience, the good year I had last year with Patrick Racing just gives you the confidence, the level of confidence you need to charge for the championship. I have prepared myself in areas that I felt I was a little bit weak and I have made them stronger. But, as you know, you have to have a little bit of luck. You also have to have the right combination and hopefully the situation we have right now with the (using both the 1998 Reynard and the 1999 Swift) is not going to affect our aspiration for the championship. Unfortunately, we are not starting out on the right line with all of these problems. Hopefully with the team we will be able to cure the deficit we have at the moment. Most of the other teams know what they are going to be running for the year and they know that it is going to be fast and at the moment we are still trying to make up our minds to what we are going to do."

WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HOW THE JAPANESE EMBRACED CHAMP CAR RACING? "Actually, I am going out there a bit early to spend some time with the fans. They are very polite, great race fans, very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about racing. It will be nice to spend some time with them."

A TRANS-PACIFIC FLIGHT CAN TAKE A LOT OUT OF A PERSON. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THIS LONG FLIGHT AND THE 10 OR SO HOUR TIME CHANGE SO YOU ARE FRESH WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN JAPAN? "We are so prepared both mentally and physically that those type of things usually don't affect us. In two days you just have to catch up with the hours. As soon as you get there you need to work out and try to get your system adjusted to the new time. Actually, I enjoy these long flights to be honest because it gives me time to catch up on some movies and some books I haven't read. Those are the times (being on a plane) that are the most quiet, it gives me a chance to get away, no one is on top of you."

ARE YOU A SUPERSTITIOUS PERSON? IF SO, IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU DID LAST YEAR THAT YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU DO AGAIN TO HELP ENSURE THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE THIS YEAR IS THE SAME AS '98? "No, not really. But, a lot of people tell me that I should get sick again. If you remember I was very sick last year, I got some kind of virus from something I had eaten. I couldn't eat for 24 hours. So people tell me that I have to get sick this time, but I don't believe in all that stuff."

LOOKING AHEAD TO LONG BEACH - AFTER HAVING RACED A REYNARD FOR THE PREVIOUS TWO RACES (HOMESTEAD AND MOTEGI) IS CLIMBING IN TO THE SWIFT FOR LONG BEACH GOING TO BE A DIFFICULT TRANSITION TO MAKE? "Well, it is not the best scenario to have. The Reynard reacts differently than the Swift, mostly that way you engineer the car. It is not a beneficial thing for us now and that is what I am talking about given our aspiration to win the championship. We have put ourselves in this situation and hopefully the car will be good. I assure you that I know I can be competitive in the Reynard but I don't know yet about the Swift. And I don't like that feeling, but hopefully it will be a nice surprise. We are all expecting that."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez