FERNANDEZ REPEATS AS FIRESTONE FIREHAWK 500 CHAMPION MOTEGI, Japan (April 10, 1999) - Adrian Fernandez continued his dominance of the Twin Ring Motegi oval Saturday by driving to his fourth career FedEx Championship Series ...
FERNANDEZ REPEATS AS FIRESTONE FIREHAWK 500 CHAMPION
MOTEGI, Japan (April 10, 1999) - Adrian Fernandez continued his dominance of the Twin Ring Motegi oval Saturday by driving to his fourth career FedEx Championship Series victory in the Firestone Firehawk 500 before a crowd of 61,000.
Fernandez led 153 of the final 155 laps, including the final 149, to successfully defend the victory he claimed in last year's FedEx Championship Series debut at Twin Ring Motegi. He has dominated both events along the way, leading 255 of 402 laps contested (63.4 percent). He averaged a race-record 176.195 miles per hour en route to a 6.347-second margin over runner-up Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) in an event which concluded under caution due to a spin by Greg Moore on the 199th of 201 laps.
Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) finished third and was followed by Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), who made a spectacular recovery following his spin and crossed the finish line with tires fraying. The effort allowed him to collect 12 points, enough to keep him in the FedEx Championship Series points lead heading into the April 18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Moore, who won the season opener at Homestead, leads the championship with 34 points. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), who finished fifth, stands second with 26 while de Ferran is third with 25. Fernandez took the lead when leader Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) pitted on Lap 47 and - but for a two-lap stint on the point by Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) when Fernandez pitted four laps later - remained in front for the balance of the event. His victory allowed him to move to fourth in the championship with 21 points.
De Ferran's runner-up effort was his first podium finish since a third-place performance at Detroit last year as he survived an early mishap. De Ferran, the polesitter, spun out in Turn 4 as the field approached the green flag to signal the start of the race, but somehow saved the car and escaped unscathed. The run was his second consecutive podium finish at Motegi, following third last year.
Fittipaldi's third-place performance represented his best finish on an oval since his runner-up showing at Indianapolis in his rookie year of 1995. He scored his third podium finish in the past eight events, including thirds at Road America and Australia last year.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard: "All day, we were saving fuel. At the start of the race we were determined to get into a good position. I felt I had a strong car, and Gil's [de Ferran] spinout really got my attention. I came into the lead after my first pit stop. The guys did a great job on the stop, I don't think we were very strong at Homestead. After that my biggest challenge was from Montoya. I don't think he was saving fuel, but I was able to stay ahead of him. After that, it was just a question of whether we could get to the end. The numbers said no way we were going to make it, I was just praying for more yellows and more yellows. When the last yellow came out, they [the crew] said, "Back off! Back off!" and that was it. I think we would have just barely made it, but you never really know. I'm just really pleased for the entire Patrick [Racing] organization."
GIL de FERRAN, Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard: "Everybody was on the same page going into the race. We were running as lean as we could to extend the window as much as we could. The car was good until Lap 25, when we started to go loose. I had a massive moment coming out of [Turn} 4 and I started to go backwards in a hurry. I was extremely unlucky after one of the [pit] stops when it went yellow and I had to go to the back of the field. And then exactly the opposite happened. We were unlucky at first and lucky later on. At the end of the race I started to challenge Christian and when we got in traffic, I was able to get by him. We decided to come in at the end because it was too tight."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "Behind traffic, it was exciting. The car was a little loose, but other cars were not able to get the kind of mileage we were. At the very end, we had problems with Tarso [ Marques] coming out of the pits, Gil got a run on me and was able to pass me for second. Apart from that, I'm pretty happy. We're very happy with the points and we've still got 18 races to go. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
The FedEx Championship Series continues with its second event in as many weeks, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, next Sunday, April 18, from the streets of Long Beach, Calif. (4 p.m. ET, live ABC-TV).
Source: CART Online