CHAMPCAR/CART: Gateway Patrick Racing qualifying report

MADISON, ILLINOIS - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2000 - Round 17 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing driver Adrian Fernandez qualified seventh while teammate Roberto will line-up 11th for tomorrow's Motorola 300 at Gateway ...

MADISON, ILLINOIS - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2000 - Round 17 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing driver Adrian Fernandez qualified seventh while teammate Roberto will line-up 11th for tomorrow's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, began the day with the 21st fastest time following Friday's two practice sessions. His quick lap, achieved in yesterday mornings split practice, was 26.704 seconds (171.210 mph). His place on the Friday combined practice report was mainly due to the fact that the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team spent much of the day working on race set-ups instead of qualifying configurations. Running with the first or "slow" group in this morning's split practice, Fernandez gave notice of things to come by turning a fast lap of 25.518 seconds (179.168 mph) placing him at the top of the session's speed chart and seventh on the two-day combined practice report. Since oval qualifying is run one car at a time in reverse order of the combined practice report speeds, Fernandez turn didn't come until almost ¾'s of the field had taken their qualifying lap. This gave him the advantage of knowing what the top speeds were as well as the track conditions. It also allowed Fernandez to make adjustments based on his teammate's qualifying run since Moreno took his turn four places before. During his qualifying laps, Fernandez experienced a slight push (understeer), but still managed a fast lap of 25.573 seconds (178.782 mph) in much warmer conditions than the morning practice. He will start on the inside of row four in tomorrow's Motorola 300.

"I am very happy with where the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team qualified. I was hoping that we would start in the top ten and we are. This morning when it was colder the car was more neutral and as it got hotter we developed a little push (understeer) in qualifying. Besides the heat, another factor for the race will be when the tires get old. At a certain point on old tires the car gets loose (oversteer) behind traffic. It is important to get the front wing set properly, but the most important thing is to have a well-balanced car. I think we have that," Fernandez said.

Fernandez has now qualified in the top-10 in eight of 17 races. The seventh place qualifying effort ties his best starting position at Gateway International Raceway. This is just the second time in his last seven races that Fernandez has qualified in the top ten and the third time he has started in the top-10 in eight oval races this year. The 35-year-old Mexican is currently fourth in the championship standings with 18 points. He is just four points out of third place and 14 out of first. Fernandez, who has scored points in nine consecutive races with seven top-10 showings, has finished in the top five in four of his last seven races and in the top six in six of the seven. The Paradise Valley, Arizona resident has tallied points in 13 of his last 14 starts. He has finished 13 of 16 races this year (the most of any driver) each time in the points. Fernandez has 11 top-10 showings including six top five finishes with four podium appearances and one win (Rio). He is competing at Gateway International Raceway for the fourth time. In his previous three starts his best finish is eighth in 1997.

"The championship race is very tight. I can't remember a year when it was this competitive. Every one of these last four races is extremely important. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has to finish all four races and we have to finish in the top five if we are going to content for the championship. You can't afford to drop out of any of these last races and you probably have to win at least one to take the championship," noted Fernandez.

Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, had a day, and in fact a weekend, that was almost a mirror image of his teammate. He was 18th on Friday's combined practice report, again because the team spent most of Friday working on race set-ups. His fast lap of 26.525 seconds (172.366 mph) was also achieved in the morning place session. Moreno came out firing on all cylinders in this morning's split practice. Running with the first group he turned a quick lap of 25.659 seconds (178.183 mph), which was the fourth fastest time for his group and placed him 11th on the combined practice report. In qualifying, Moreno experienced a slightly bigger understeering (push) problem. His time of 25.758 seconds (177.498 seconds) puts him on the inside of row six for tomorrow's race.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth wasn't as fast in qualifying as it was in this morning's practice. We were a little bit slower, but the car is very good. We had a push (understeer) at mid-exit in qualifying, I think the tire pressure wasn't exactly as it was this morning.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team will be okay in tomorrow's race. We didn't qualify as fast as we wanted, but we have a good race car. Strategy and pit work will be a big factor in the race. We have had very good race and pit strategies all year and the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew has done a tremendous job in the pit all season," Moreno said.

This is Moreno's best starting position in three attempts at Gateway International Raceway. It also ties his second highest starting position in his last eight races. Moreno has now qualified in the top-10 in nine of 17 races. The 41-year-old Brazilian, who fell out of the top five in the standings for the first time this season last weekend in Monterey, California, is currently sixth in the standings with 115 points just seven points out of third place and 17 out of first. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 in three of his last five races and placed in the points four times. He has finished 11 of 16 races (tied for fifth), each time in the points with 10 top-10 showings including six top five finishes and four podium appearances with one victory (his CART career first at Cleveland). Moreno's best finish at Gateway is fourth, last year.

The Motorola 300 will be run on tomorrow, Sunday, September 17 at 1:30 p.m. (Midwest time) and will be televised on ESPN (see local listings).

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez