BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2001 -- Round ...
BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2001 -- Round #11 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno, despite a morning practice crash, is 10th and Jimmy Vasser 17th on the combined speed charts following the first day of practice for the Harrah's 500 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.
Moreno was having a superb session as he piloted the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard backup car to the top of the speed charts early in morning practice with a fast lap of 32.264 seconds (223.159 mph). With the backup car having proved its mettle the team decided to shakedown the primary car. A couple of laps into the run Moreno found himself in traffic, which created turbulence and took the air, and thus the downforce, off the wings of his car. The car began to spin and when it stopped Moreno was headed for the tire barrier on the inside of the track. Although he fought valiantly to regain control, the car continued on its path smashing into the tire barrier. Moreno was taken to the infield hospital where he was examined and pronounced fit to drive by the CART medical staff. His quick lap in morning practice did, however, hold up well as he finished fourth on the morning practice report.
In the afternoon session, the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor and spent the entire practice working on their race setup. They did short runs on full fuel tanks and scrubbed tires for tomorrow's qualifying. Moreno's fastest time in the afternoon practice was 32.949 seconds (218.632 mph). He ended up 10th on the combined practice report based on his fast lap in the morning session.
"I started the morning practice with the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard backup car, which was very good and very fast," Moreno said. "We switched to the primary car and decided to simulate a race situation by running in traffic. Suddenly, I found myself in a good spot to do that. Unfortunately, I got some turbulence from one car that was alongside me and one in front. The turbulence took the air off the wings and I started spinning. When the spin finished I was headed toward the inside wall. The new surface before the wall slowed the car almost enough for me to get control, but I still had too much inertia and I went into the tire wall," Moreno explained.
"There are three things that helped me in the crash," Moreno continued. "First, the new surface between the track and the inside wall. I want to thank Michigan International Speedway for putting that surface in. It really slowed the car down before impact. Second the tires against the wall. Once again I want to thank MIS for putting those tires in place. That tire wall was very important in cushioning the impact. Third, I believe the HANS device saved my neck. When I hit the tire barrier something hit me in the head very hard. There are tire marks all the way up my helmet and it is cracked on the inside. The impact from the hit was so hard that without the HANS device I think it would have twisted my neck around. It is a very important piece of equipment and I am sure I would not be standing here preparing to practice this afternoon without the HANS device."
Moreno concluded by saying that, "In the afternoon practice we just scrubbed tires and worked on our full tank race setup. I am fine after this morning's accident, but we decided to take it easy. We worked on fine-tuning the car and didn't really push it. I am looking forward to practice and qualifying tomorrow."
Moreno, who is competing at MIS for the sixth time, is currently tied for 11th in the championship race. He has placed in the points in seven of his last eight starts and seven of the nine races this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second; Cleveland - eighth; Toronto - 11th). In five previous starts at MIS, Moreno has finished in the top-six twice. In 1986 he placed sixth in his first race at MIS. Ten years later he earned his first career CART podium with a third place finish in his second race at MIS at the inaugural U. S. 500. His best qualifying position is 13th in 1999.
Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 22 of his last 42 starts and in the points 29 times. He has placed in the points in 13 of his last 17 oval races with ten top-10 finishes, six top-five performances and four podiums. In three oval races this year, Moreno has placed in the points twice with a best finish of 10th at Japan. He had the two best oval performances, and best 500-mile oval finish, of his career last year, placing second at Homestead and Fontana.
Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, got off to a slightly slower start in morning practice running a fast lap of 33.252 seconds (216.528 mph) putting him 25th on the morning practice report. However, following extensive analysis, and a lot of hard work on the part of the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team, things got headed in the right direction in the afternoon practice. After working on race setups Vasser jumped from 18th place on the speed charts to ninth with a lap of 32.361 seconds (222.490 mph). He finished the session in 12th place putting him 17th on the combined practice report.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard isn't the way I want it right now, but we are headed in the right direction," Vasser said. "This is my first superspeedway with Patrick Racing and we have some adjustments to make to get the car the way I like it. We made some real progress this afternoon, but we still have a ways to go. I am confident that after we sit down and go over the data we can make the changes I need to go fast in qualifying," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who is racing at MIS for the ninth time, has an impressive record on the two-mile superspeedway oval. He has qualified in the top-six seven times and in the top-five six times including three poles (1996 - U. S. 500; 1996 - Michigan 500; 1999 - U. S. 500) in eight attempts. He has finished in the top-10 five times including a victory in 1996 and a second place showing in 1998.
The native of California has finished in the top-five four times this year and has placed in the top-six in five of nine races (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth; Cleveland - fifth). He is currently eighth in the championship standings with 50 points. Vassser has finished 91 of his last 112 races placing in the points 86 times (dating to Milwaukee `95). In 61 CART career oval starts, he has finished in the points 45 times with 42 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podium appearances and five wins including one at MIS and most recently at Fontana in 1998. In the three ovals races this year, Vasser has finished in the top-five twice (Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth).
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning beginning at 9:00 AM. Qualifying will begin at 12:00 PM. The Harrah's 500 will be run on Sunday, July 22 at 1:30 PM (ET) and will be televised live on ABC
Patrick Racing History At MIS:
In 29-years of competition Patrick Racing has started more races and had its best results at MIS. Moreno and Vasser will be starting for a team record 80th and 81st time at MIS. In 79 previous starts, Patrick Racing has finished in the top-10 41 times, with 25 top-five placements, 17 podium appearances and six victories (tied with Phoenix for most in team history). (Gordon Johncock - 1976, '77, '79 and '82; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1985; Scott Pruett - 1995). The team has captured the pole five times (Gordon Johncock 1973, '79; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1989; Scott Pruett - 1997; and Adrian Fernandez - 1998). If Vasser's record is added Patrick Racing drivers have sat on the pole in five of the last six races at MIS (Vasser - 1996 U. S. 500 and Michigan 500; Pruett - 1997 U. S. 500; Fernandez - 1998 U. S. 500; Vasser - 1999 U. S. 500).
McGee Going For Ninth Victory At MIS:
Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee will be seeking his ninth victory at Michigan International Speedway. (Tom Sneva - 1975; Bobby Unser - 7/15/79 and 9/15/79; Mario Andretti - 1980; Johncock - 1982; Fittipaldi - 1985; Nigel Mansell - 1993; and Pruett - 1995)