Patrick Racing Runs Into Bad Luck At Miller Lite 225 Moreno Finishes 15th, Vasser 21st MILWUAKEE, WISCONSIN - SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2001 -- Round ...
Patrick Racing Runs Into Bad Luck At Miller Lite 225
Moreno Finishes 15th, Vasser 21st
MILWUAKEE, WISCONSIN - SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2001 -- Round #6 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser was primed for a podium finish at today's Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when bad luck struck and knocked him from the competition. As a result Vasser finished 21st while teammate Roberto Moreno placed 15th.
Vasser, in the newly painted bright orange #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, started the race a season high fifth (girding was based on the 2001 FedEx Championship Series points standings because yesterday's qualifying was rained out). The race began with a yellow flag on lap #1 when pole sitter Kenny Brack got entangled with fellow front row starter, and 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. The ensuing melee collected Cristiano da Matta, who started third, forcing both Castroneves and da Matta from the contest. Meanwhile, Vasser, who did an incredible job of keeping the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard from becoming an additional casualty, had two cars slip by him, so he remained in fifth place.
When the track went green again on lap #12, Paul Tracy, who started fourth, immediately brought out the second yellow flag of the day when damage done to his car from the earlier incident sent him careening into the wall. When the race was once again restarted on lap #20, Vasser was running in fourth where he remained until the first round of pit stops. Pitting on lap #93, Vasser rejoined the competition in13th place, however, because of all the early yellow flags, several teams that had started in the back of the field had taken the opportunity to pit out of sequence.
By lap #112 everything had sorted itself out and Vasser was firmly entrenched in the No. 3 spot, but separated from the leaders by several lapped cars. Picking his way through the first of the backmarkers he was closing in on the leaders when, after patiently working on Tora Takagi, who was a lap down, he got a good run and made his moved. At that point the racing gods decided to play a cruel joke. Takagi, who had ignored the move over flag for a couple of laps, moved down the track forcing Vasser to spin thus ending his day on lap 132.
"I haven't seen the video tape so I can't say for sure what happen, but I was working on a guy (Tora Takagi) who was a lap down for a couple of laps. Finally I had a run on him. I came along side, and I though he just squeezed me and drove me down to the inside wall. I can't imagine he didn't see me, but that's racing I guess. He is a rookie, and I just hope he didn't do it on purpose. The Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was a good car today. We were saving fuel and I had a good chance at the win. It is a shame for the Patrick team," Vasser said.
Vasser has now placed in the points in seven of nine races in Milwaukee with six top-10 finishes including three top-four showings and a victory (1998). The 35-year-old Californian has finished in the top-six in all four of six races this year placing sixth at Mexico, fifth in Long Beach, fourth in Nazareth, and fifth in Japan. Fortunately, because several of the other point's leaders were knocked out of today's race, Vasser remains tied for third place in the championship standings with 40 points. He has scored points in 44 of his last 60 (33 of last 41) oval races with 41 top-10 finishes, 22 top-five showings, 12 podiums and five wins. The Las Vegas resident has finished 89 of his last 108 races placing in the points 85 times. In 152 career CART starts, Vasser has 90 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles.
Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, started 17th based on the points and then battled a car that was handling poorly throughout the race. The native of Brazil got off to a good start moving into 13th place on the opening lap. He remained there until the restart following the second yellow flag when he fell one spot to 14th. He held station until lap #73 when he slipped back into 13th when Bryan Herta was forced to pit with an engine problem. Moreno pitted for fuel for the first time on lap #89 and by the time everyone had completed their first stop, and the cars out of sequence had pitted for the second time, he was once again back in 13th place. The Weston, Florida resident took on fuel for the second time on lap #135 rejoining the competition in 15th place. He fought the handling problem as well as the other competitors valiantly for the remainder of the race dropping as low as 19th place, but as the race strategies played out and Moreno continued to drive a determined race he eventually worked his way back up to 15th place where he finished.
"It was a very tough day at the office for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team," Moreno said. "The car was much better today than on Friday, but we were lacking some overall grip. It was very difficult to get into the corners late and come out good. Also, when I was behind another car I just had a terrible time. The turbulence of the car in front of me would take all of the downforce off the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard and make it tough to get around a corner. So it was a long day."
Moreno has now finished in the points in three of seven races at Milwaukee and three of five races during the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season. Moreno has placed in the top-10 in 19 of his last 38 starts and in the points 25 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.