DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2001 -- Round ...
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2001 -- Round #7 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Roberto Moreno scored the team's first podium finish of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season with a third place showing today at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on the Belle Isle temporary street circuit in Detroit, Michigan. Teammate Jimmy Vasser suffered a mishap and placed 18th.
Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, drove an outstanding race and got impressive pit work and race strategy from his Visteon/Patrick Racing team. However, it took a daring pass during a re-start on lap 66 to put the talented and personable Brazilian on the podium for the first time this season. Moreno, who started a season high seventh, dropped back to eighth place at the start of the race where he remained until after the first round of pit stops. Saving fuel and getting some yellow flag laps, Moreno was one of the last competitors to pit for fuel staying out until lap 32. At that time strategy came into play as Mr. Patrick and General Manager Jim McGee decided to short fuel the car, since they were going to have to stop for a second time anyway, in an effort to gain some track position. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew proceeded to do an excellent job during the stop and when Moreno rejoined the race he was in sixth place. Paul Tracy, who had pitted early in the race, came in for his second stop a few laps later, moving Moreno into fifth place. He held station for the next nine laps and then on lap 41 a yellow flag came out. At that point the team took a bit of a gamble. Sitting just on the edge of there fuel window to finish the race they made the decision to come in for their second stop hoping that they would get enough yellow flags and that Moreno would continue to get the fuel mileage he had been getting. The stop, once again, went off without a hitch and Moreno reentered the contest still in fifth place. On lap 56, Gil de Ferran, who was running in third place had an engine hiccup allowing Dario Franchitti and Moreno to slip by. Now running in fourth place and at this point assured that he had enough fuel to finish the race, Moreno began to work on Franchitti. Noticing that on a previous restart Franchitti had tried to get a run and make a move on Patrick Carpentier, who was in second place, Moreno began to plan a strategy. On the next restart, Moreno decided he would go a little early then follow Franchitti as he tried to get past Carpentier and hopefully, have enough momentum to get pass both cars. The plan worked, almost to perfection. On lap 62 the yellow came out
on the ensuing restart on lap 66 Moreno accelerated and followed Franchitti. Franchitti got by Carpentier, who was having trouble accelerating, with Moreno firmly on his tail. Carpentier, seeing what was happening moved over to block Moreno, their wheels touch sending Moreno into the air. When he came down, he was in third place with no significant damage to the car. Moreno was unable to challenge for second at that point, but was able to defend his position to bring him the podium finish.
"I noticed that Caprentier was slow on the restarts and that Franchitti was trying to get a run on him. I decided that I would go with Franchitti and try and pass both cars on the next restart. As I was coming alongside Carpentier, he moved over and we touched wheels. I went flying into the air with all four wheels off the ground. When I landed I got past him with just minimal damage to the car, but the damage didn't matter because I would have carried the car to the finish line," Moreno said.
"I have had a very tough beginning of the season and was way behind in the points. It is so difficult for a driver when you are having bad results. We put everything together today. We came here and from the beginning the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was good. During the race we saved fuel, so I have learned how to do that, plus Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee had a good race strategy. I want to say thanks to the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. They did a great job today. I am so glad for Toyota and Firestone, and a special thanks to my sponsor Visteon. I am just so happy to be able to give them a podium finish at their world headquarters."
Moreno, who earned his first podium showing since finishing second at the 2000 FedEx Championship season finale in Fontana, is now in 13th place in the championship standings with 20 points. He has finished in the points in four of six races this year (Long Beach, 11; Nazareth, 12; Japan, 10th; Detroit, third). The Weston, Florida resident has now finished in the top-five twice in five races at Detroit (he placed fifth in 1997). Moreno has finished in the points in 13 of his last 22 road/street course starts with 10 top-10 placements, six top five showings and four podiums including a win at Cleveland. He has finished in the top-10 in 20 of his last 39 starts and in the points 26 times
Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was running an equally impressive race until a mishap on lap 43 send the native of California into the wall ending his day. Qualifying a season high fifth (he also started fifth in Milwaukee but the field was gridded based on points due to rain), Vasser dropped to sixth at the start of the race. He battled with Franchitti for much of the early part of the race trading positions a couple of times. While running in sixth place a local yellow came out on lap #27 and the team decided to take a chance pitting Vasser even though he could have still gone another three-four laps. By the time the first round of pit stops were completed and Tracy had pitted for the second time, Vasser was once again in sixth place. He, like all the leaders, pitted again during the yellow on lap 41. Then, while trying to keep the sand and marbles off his tires while driving around the track for the remainder of the yellow flag, he lost control of the car and hit the wall.
"I just flat blew it," Vasser said. "We made the last pit stop and left the tires on. With hot tires you pick up a lot of the sand material and marbles. I was working hard trying to keep the tires clean and I just lost it. I just totally lost it trying to keep the tires clean," Vasser noted.
"Going into the race I felt I had a car that could win the race, but the way the race was unfolding it didn't look good. The car was good and I am sorry for Patrick Racing and my sponsor Visteon. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team gave me a great car and I just blew it," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who was running with Visteon, and its associate sponsors, corporate identification on his car this weekend Vasser, is now tied for sixth in the championship standings with 40 points. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident, who is 34 points out of first place, has finished in the top-six in four of the first sxi races this year ((Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth;). In 92 career CART street/road 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. He has finished 89 of his last 109 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Freightliner/G. I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon, June 22-24.