JACKSON, MI - - APRIL 3, 2001 - - Patrick Racing heads to Long Beach, California for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 6-8, brimming with confidence and fully expecting a very competitive race. Patrick Racing's confidence is...
JACKSON, MI - - APRIL 3, 2001 - - Patrick Racing heads to Long Beach, California for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 6-8, brimming with confidence and fully expecting a very competitive race.
Patrick Racing's confidence is not unfounded. Based on pre-season testing, the past performance of both drivers on the challenging 1.9-mile Long Beach temporary street circuit, and the team's solid performance in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season opener in Mexico, both Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Moreno have to be considered among the favorites to capture Sunday's race.
Vasser, who is coming off a sixth place finish in his Patrick Racing debut at the season opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, has enjoyed tremendous success at Long Beach. In nine previous appearances, at what he considers his hometown race, Vasser has qualified in the top-10 five times with a high of second, last year. Even more impressive is the fact that he has finished in the top-10 six times with two podiums showings including a victory in 1996.
Commenting on this year's race Vasser said, "It is going to be a very competitive race, but based on our pre-season testing with the street circuit tires and Roberto's performance last year at Long Beach, I think we are well positioned to run up front. What is most amazing to me is that Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee have never won at Long Beach. I would really like to give them both their first win on the streets of Long Beach."
Vasser went on to say that, "The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is a home race for me. My family is there and I have a lot of friends who attend the race. I really enjoy the atmosphere at Long Beach and the new changes to the circuit make it more interesting as far as the racing. I have a lot of love for the streets."
Vasser, who is driving his tenth CART season, pilots the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard. He is one of four CART Champions and three Americans currently competing in the FedEx Championship Series. The 35-year-old native of California, who captured the CART title in 1996, has started 148 races with 87 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles. Last year he finished sixth in the championship standings, the sixth consecutive year he has finished in top-10 in the point's race. A determined and consistent competitor, Vasser has finished 86 of his last 104 starts placing in the points 82 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).
Moreno, who was running a strong race in the season opener in Mexico when he made contact in Turn 12 putting an end to his day, will be looking to put together another strong performance at Long Beach. Last year, he qualified eighth then in the race quickly found that he had the best car on the track. Combine that with outstanding fuel mileage and you have a prescription for a podium finish if not a victory. Unfortunately, after taking the lead and pulling away from the field, he experienced a transmission problem that robbed him of second gear. Through determination and skill he was able to finish the race, placing ninth. This will be Moreno's fifth start at Long Beach. In four previous attempts he has qualified in the top-10 three times with a high of sixth, twice, and finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of sixth in 1986.
"I am very confident heading into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but I know it is going to be a very competitive race. Last year the Visteon/Patrick Racing car was outstanding under braking which allowed me to pass several cars and challenge for the lead. We definitely had the best and fastest car in the race. We also were able to save fuel, which enabled us to utilize a different pit strategy. That put us in a winning position. Unfortunately, I developed a problem with second gear and could not enter or exit the slow corners very well. It took me a few laps to figure out how to handle the situation, but in the end all I could do was defend my position. I really feel like we have some unfinished business at Long Beach."
Moreno, 42, is in his eighth season of CART competition and second as the pilot of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry. The native of Brazil had a career year in 2000 finishing a CART career high third in the championship standings. He led the CART standings for the first time in his career and was among the point leaders all season. The Weston, Florida resident also captured his first CART victory and pole (both at Cleveland) and had his best showing in a 500-mile race finishing second in Fontana. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 34 starts and in the points 22 times.
For background, statistical information, releases, notes, quotes plus updates on race weekends, go to (www.patrickracing.com).