FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2001 -- Round ...
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2001 -- Round #21 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser had a strong qualifying effort today and will start ninth in tomorrow's Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota at California Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Roberto Moreno will lineup 23rd.
Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, began the day 27th on the combined practice report following Friday's two practice sessions with a fast lap of 32.391 seconds (225.507 mph). The Visteon/Patrick Racing team spent most of yesterday working on race setups and running on full tanks, so during this morning's practice session they went in search of speed. The team accomplished that goal as Vasser ran a fast lap of 32.073 seconds (227.743 mph), which put him 24th on the individual practice report. Although he dropped some positions on the time charts the improvement in the performance of the car was an indication of things to come. Qualifying was run in considerably warmer conditions than this morning so times and speeds were slower. However, Vasser, with a much-improved car based on the changes made during the morning practice, managed to lose less ground than most of the other competitors. His quick lap in qualifying came in at 32.296 seconds (226.170 mph) putting him on the inside of Row #5.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard felt good in qualifying" Vasser said. "Yesterday we worked on race setups and running on full tanks so this morning we stripped the car down and went looking for speed. We obviously found some. I thought we would be a little quicker than we were, but overall I am happy to be starting in the top-10. I think we are very prepared for the race tomorrow, but with a 500-mile race anything can happen. It is not important where you start, but where you finish," Vasser concluded.
Vasser has now qualified in the top-10 nine times in 21 attempts this year. He is starting in the top-nine for the fifth time in five attempts at California Speedway. His best starting position is second in 1997 and 1998. Vasser has finished in the top-five three times in four races at Fontana with two podiums (second in the inaugural event in 1997 and a victory in 1998).
The native of California, who is 12th in the championship standings with 76 points (seven out of tenth place), is attempting to finish in the top-10 in the point's race for the seventh consecutive year. Vasser began the season placing in the top-six in the first four events. He then was plagued by misfortune finishing in the points just once in the next 11 races, despite being extremely competitive. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has rebounded with points paying finishes in his last four races moving him to within striking distance of the top-10 in the standings. Vasser has scored points in nine of 19 races this year placing in the top-10 eight times, the top-six seven times and the top-five five times. He has finished in the points in three of seven oval races this year. In 65 career CART oval starts, Vasser has finished in the points 46 times with 43 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podiums and five wins.
Moreno, driving the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, started the day 19th on the combined practice report with a time of 32.253 seconds (226.472 mph) after working, like his teammate, on race setups most of Friday. During Saturday morning's practice, he too, went in search of speed. Again, mirroring his teammate, he found speed, but lost some positions. Moreno's fast time this morning was 31.994 seconds (228.305 mph) putting him 22nd on the practice report. Unfortunately, the progress made in morning practice did not continue into qualifying. Despite having the pedal all the way to the floor Moreno could only manage a fast time of 32.664 seconds (223.622 mph). He will start on the outside of Row #11.
"I don't really know what happened with the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard in qualifying," Moreno said. "I was completely flat (pedal to the floor) all the way around the track, but we were just very slow. Fortunately, we have done a lot of work on our race setups and the car is working well on full tanks and in traffic. I think we have a good car for the race. The other good thing is, historically, the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has had good race strategies especially in 500-mile races. The key tomorrow is to be conservative, stay on the lead lap...have good strategy and pits stops, then, hopefully be able to fight for the win at the end of race," Moreno concluded.
Moreno has 10 top-10 qualifying efforts in 21 attempts this year. He is racing at California Speedway for just the second time. Last year he started 19th and finished second.
The personable Brazilian, who is in his eighth CART season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is attempting to finish in the top-10 in the championship standings for the second consecutive year. He is also looking to snap a streak of five straight finishes out of the points. Moreno is currently 11th in the championship race with 76 points, seven points out of 10th place (he and Vasser are tied, but Moreno get the tiebreaker by virtue of his win at Vancouver). He has finished 14 of 19 races this year placing in the points 11 times. Moreno has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. The Weston, Florida resident, has placed in the points three times in seven oval races this season. He has scored points in 14 of his last 21 oval contests with 10 top-10 finishes, six top-five showings and four podiums.
Patrick Racing has also enjoyed considerable success at Fontana. In ten qualifying attempts at California Speedway, Patrick Racing has qualified in the top-10 four times taking the pole in 1998 (Scott Pruett). In four previous races, eight starts, they have finished in the top-10 five times, with four top-five showings including two podiums and a win (Fernandez - 1999)
The Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota will be run on Sunday, November 4 at 12:30 PM (PT)) and will be televised live on ESPN at 3:30 PM (ET)