CHAMPCAR/CART: Patrick Racing Detroit preview

Patrick Racing Looking to Gain Ground in Championship Race Beginning With Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit JACKSON, MI - - JUNE 13, 2001 - - Patrick Racing drivers Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Moreno are looking to gain ground in the battle...

Patrick Racing Looking to Gain Ground in Championship Race Beginning With Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit

JACKSON, MI - - JUNE 13, 2001 - - Patrick Racing drivers Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Moreno are looking to gain ground in the battle for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series title beginning this weekend at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on the street circuit at Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan.

Vasser, in the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, has had a strong start to the 2001 season, his first with Patrick Racing. The 35-year-old Californian has finished in the top-six in four of the first five races this year and is currently tied for third in the championship standings with 40 points. The only time he has failed to finish in the upper half of the points occurred at Milwaukee where he ran into some bad luck. While running in third place, Vasser got involved in an incident with rookie Tora Takagi, who was a lap down, had ignored the move over flag and then made a questionable move as Vasser was attempting to pass. The result was Vasser was knocked from the race while Takagi was suspended from the competition. The DNF ended a streak of four consecutive top-six finishes for Vasser (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth) and left him 30 points out of first, but just seven out of second.

Despite the minor setback in Milwaukee, Vasser remains upbeat and confident heading into the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit...and with good reason. In eight previous races in Detroit, Vasser has qualified in the top-10 just once, seventh in 1998, but has finished in the top-10 five times (the top-seven the last four years) and in the points six times. His best showing is a second place finish in 1995.

"The Detroit street circuit is an interesting track to drive, but it is a very difficult track to race because it is so hard to pass," Vasser said. "I always enjoy qualifying at Detroit, which is obviously a key to success on that circuit. Over the last two years they have added some places to pass, but there is no substitute for qualifying up front at a place like Detroit," Vasser noted.

With the next four races all on street/road circuits, Vasser sees this as a time to make a move in the points and even claim the victory that has eluded him so far this season.

"The next four races are going to be very crucial to the championship race," Vasser said. "The Patrick Racing team cannot afford get too far behind the leaders. It hurt us not getting the points we would have at Milwaukee, but that is in the past and I don't like to dwell on the past. I am looking forward to getting back on the track and racing. We need to win some races if we are going to content for the championship. It is as simple as that," Vasser concluded.

The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has some history to back up his determination. In 34 career starts at Detroit, Portland, Cleveland and Toronto he has finished in the points 20 times with 16 top-10 placements, six top-five showings and four podiums. One final point in Vasser's favor is his experience and success with the Toyota engine on road/street circuits. He scored Toyota's first podium finish placing third at Long Beach in 2000 and captured Toyota's first road course victory taking last year's Houston Grand Prix.

Moreno, who pilots the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, is coming off a 15th place performance at Milwaukee that saw his streak of three consecutive points paying finishes come to an end (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th). He is currently tied for 17th in the championship standings with six points. The talented and personable Brazilian is looking forward to the upcoming quartet of street/road circuits as he attempts to string together a series of solid finishes that will put him in the middle of the championship race. Moreno, a renowned road/street course driver with Formula One experience, has finished in the points in 12 of his last 21 road/street course starts with nine top-10 placements, five top five showing and three podiums including his first career victory (and pole) last year at Cleveland. More to the point, Moreno, who has seven starts over the last two years at Detroit, Portland, Cleveland and Toronto, has finished in the top-10 five times with three top-four showings including the victory at Cleveland.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has not gotten off to the kind of start that I had hope for, but I am very confident that we will get things going in the right direction," Moreno said. "I have a lot of confidence heading into the next four races. All are on street or road circuits where I have performed well over the last two years. I think we have good baseline setups for all four tracks and I am looking forward to getting back on the podium and back into the thick of the FedEx Championship Series points race," Moreno concluded.

Moreno will be making his fifth start in Detroit. He has qualified in the top ten in three of his four previous races, with a high of third in 1997, and has a best finish of fifth, also in 1997. Last year at Detroit, the Weston, Florida resident was running in third place when he had to go off line and spun as he tired to avoid an out of control Takuya Kurosawa. The DNF temporarily halted Moreno's charge to the front of the championship standings, but in the next two races he finished second in Portland and won in Cleveland putting him in first place in the standings for the first time in his CART career (he went on to finish a career high third in the championship race.)

"Detroit is a bit of a tricky place," Moreno said. "You have to qualify well because it is so difficult to pass. They have added some passing zones, but the keys still remain to qualify well, have a good race strategy, save fuel, and have good pit stops. Last year I qualified tenth, but was able to get up to third place because I saved fuel. I am still learning how to save fuel with the Toyota engine, but I will spend a lot of time talking to Jimmy (teammate Jimmy Vasser) about how to conserve in Detroit because it is so important," Moreno said.

PATRICK RACING NOTES:

Vasser Has Strong Career Record On Road/Street Circuits:

Vasser has a strong record on road/street circuits. In 91 CART career road/street starts he has placed in the points 55 times with 48 top-10 finishes including 24 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories.

Vasser And Moreno Are Models Of Consistency:

Vasser has finished 89 of his last 108 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995). Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 19 of his last 38 starts and in the points 25 times

Patrick Racing Scores High In Reliability:

Combining the stats of Moreno and Vasser, Patrick Racing is tied for first in finishes (eight of ten starts), second in laps (1467 out of a possible 1622) and miles completed (1940.240 out of a possible 2163.322) and fifth in points (46).

Patrick Racing Second in Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge:

Vasser's #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard crew is currently second in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge standings after the first five races of the season.

McGee Holds Record For Most Wins:

Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee is tops on the all-time wins list for a Manager/Chief Mechanic with 88. McGee has nine national championships and is the only Manager/Chief Mechanic to win a championship in four decades (60's - 90's). He has at least one victory in each of his last five decades (his 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's) and a least one victory in each of the last five decades (60's-00).

Patrick Racing Facts:

Patrick Racing, which enters its 29th year of competition in 2001, is one of the most successful teams in the history of Champ Car racing with 44 victories, three Indianapolis 500 wins and two national championships (1976 - Gordon Johncock and 1989 - Emerson Fittipaldi). U. E. "Pat" Patrick is the co-founder of CART and the "father" of the Dayton Indy Lights Series.

For background, statistical information, releases, notes, quotes plus updates on race weekends, go to (www.patrickracing.com).

-PR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Tora Takagi , Emerson Fittipaldi , Takuya Kurosawa , Gordon Johncock