CHAMPCAR/CART: Moreno, Fernandez in top ten at Gateway

MADISON, ILLINOIS - SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2000 - Round 17 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno finished third and teammate Adrian Fernandez placed tenth today at the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway...

MADISON, ILLINOIS - SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2000 - Round 17 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno finished third and teammate Adrian Fernandez placed tenth today at the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, qualified 11th, his best starting position in three attempts at Gateway International Raceway, but then battled a car that was understeering throughout the first part of the race. He dropped as low as 15th prior to his first pit stop, on lap 59, when the Visteon/Patrick Racing team adjusted his tire pressure. The car improved, but Moreno had a lot of track position to make up. Running in 14th position "Pat" Patrick and Jim McGee called Moreno in for his second stop on lap 121. This was earlier than most of the lead cars, but was necessitated by the fact that Moreno was using more fuel then the leaders. At that point the team made a crucial decision to short fill (not put in all the fuel) in and attempt to gain some track position. Not only did he pick up some positions by short filling, but, when the majority of the lead cars pitted several laps later, Moreno was able to make up a lot of time running on a track with fewer cars. By lap 134 he was in ninth place fighting for position with all but the top three cars, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Juan Montoya, who were a lap up on the field. The short fill did, however, have a potential downside. It meant that there was a possibility that Moreno would have to make a fourth stop, one more then the leaders, for a splash of fuel. Moreno held station in ninth until his third stop on lap 170. He took on a full load of fuel and then, when the leaders started pitting approximately ten laps later, he was again able to make up considerable time and distance on an open track. After the third round of stops was completed, Moreno was sitting in sixth place. At that point the team informed him that he would need to conserve fuel in order to finish the race without stopping a fourth time. Luck and fate, were on Moreno's side as he was not only able to conserve fuel, but Andretti went out with an engine problem, Kenny Brack pitted for fuel on lap 199 and Tracy damaged his rear suspension forcing him from the race. That left Moreno in third place where he remained until the checkered flag.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a fantastic job today. We had a terrible car in this morning's warm-up. I couldn't even drive it. The team fixed the car and it was flying in the race. We just had some tire pressure problems early in the race. Once we corrected that the car was great. Pat Patrick and Jim McGee once again called a great race. Our strategy was perfect. They asked me to save some fuel at the end, I saved it and we made it to the end of the race. I just really want to thank the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew. We are back on the podium and back near the top of the championship race. It was a great date for us and I am going to do everything I can to get this car back into first place," Moreno said.

Today's third place showing surpasses Moreno's fourth place finish a year ago as his best finish in three races here at Gateway International Raceway. It is his first podium finish since he captured his first career CART victory at Cleveland on July 2, a span of eight races. The 14 points he earned in today's race returns him to second place in the FedEx Championship Series standings with 129 points. He trails series leader Gil de Ferran by just eight points.

Moreno, who is having a career year, led the FedEx Championship Series point standings for almost a month earlier in the season. He fell out of the top three in the points for the first time since the third race of the season two weeks ago at Vancouver and dropped out of the top five in the standings for the first time this season last weekend at Monterey. The 41-year-old Brazilian, who is in his seventh CART campaign, but driving a full season for just the third time, has finished in the top-10 in four of his last six races and placed in the points five times. Driving his first season for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team he has finished 12 of 17 races, each time in the points with 11 top-10 showings including seven top five finishes and five podium appearances with one victory. The Weston, Florida resident is third in miles completed, fourth in laps completed and fifth in laps led.

Fernandez, driving the #40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, qualified seventh tying his highest starting position at Gateway International Raceway. In the race he ran with the leaders throughout the first segment swapping places between fifth and seventh. Running in seventh place he pitted for the first time on lap 64. Fernandez rejoined the contest in sixth place, but later dropped to seventh when Patrick Carpentier passed him on lap 97. He was still in seventh when the second round of pit stops began, but because he was getting such good fuel mileage did not pit until lap 132, with several other lead cars. As a result, even though Fernandez, like his teammate short filled, he became one of Moreno's victims. When Fernandez exited the pits he found himself in tenth place one position behind Moreno. He stayed in tenth until his final stop for fuel on lap 180, but lost some positions during the stop coming back on track in 12th place. When Andretti and Tracy retired he moved back in the top-10, at number 10, where he finished.

"It was a long race for the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team. The car was very good at the beginning of the race, but at the end it got a little bit loose. At that point the car was not that good. I had a lot of oversteer (loose) and I just didn't feel very comfortable. That is when we needed to be fast because we were in traffic, but we weren't fast enough to take advantage of the situation. The good news is we are still in the hunt for the championship and with three races left a lot of things can happen," Fernandez said.

This is Fernandez' second best showing at Gateway International Raceway in four races. His best finish is eighth in 1997. The 10th place showing also continued Fernandez' remarkable streak of points paying finishes. He has now scored points in ten consecutive races with eight top-10 showings. He has finished in the top five in four of his last eight races and in the top six in six of the eight. However, despite today's good showing, Fernandez fell one place in the standings to fifth with 121 points. He remains in the thick of the championship race just six points out of third place and 16 out of first. The 35-year-old Mexican, who was in 11th place in the point's race on July 2, has been as high as third in the standings as recently as two weeks ago. The eight-year CART veteran, who is in his third season with Patrick Racing, has tallied points in 14 of his last 15 starts. He has finished 14 of 17 races this year (the most of any driver) each time in the points. Fernandez has 12 top-10 showings including six top five finishes with four podium appearances and one win (Rio). The Paradise Valley, Arizona resident is second in miles completed, third in laps completed and tenth in laps led.

Next up for Patrick Racing is a test at California Speedway in Fontana, California September 19-20. Then it is off to Houston for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix on the streets of Houston, Texas, September 29-October 1.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack