NAZARETH, PENNSYLVANIA - FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2001 -- Round ...
NAZARETH, PENNSYLVANIA - FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2001 -- Round #4 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser is 14th and Roberto Moreno 22ND on the combined speed charts after the first day of practice for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Vasser, in the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, spent much of both sessions in the top-10, but fell into the low and middle teens by the end of each practice. His fastest time in the morning session was 21.179 seconds (160.801 mph). He ran the time about midway through the two-hour morning practice and was fifth fastest for much of the session. With a solid time firmly in place and further progress harder to come by the team stopped running with about 20 minutes left in the practice period. By the time the session was over Vasser had dropped to the #12 position. In the afternoon, faster times were hard to come by as temperatures reached into the 90's setting records. Vasser again come out fast running about eighth fastest through most of the session with a quick lap of 21.193 seconds (160.695 mph). The time ended up being the 11th fastest of the one hour and 45 minute afternoon practice. However, Cristiano da Matta and Patrick Carpentier were able to improve on their morning times moving ahead of Vasser and dropping him to 14th on the combined practice report.
"Overall it was a pretty good day for the Patrick Racing team," Vasser said. "Not a great day, but a good one. We made some progress with the car, but we have a lot of understeer. The back end is pretty solid, but I have too much push. We are going to have to find a solution to our understeering problem if we are going to put the Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard anywhere near the front in qualifying. I am confident that we will come up with something by tomorrow morning that will help," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who has had solid performances in his first two outings with Patrick Racing placing sixth in Mexico and fifth at Long Beach, is currently fifth in the championship standings with 18 points. This weekend's race will be his 150th career start in nine plus season of CART competition. He has amassed 88 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles in his CART career. Among his nine wins are five oval victories, including one at Nazareth and most recently at Fontana both in 1998. This will be the eighth time Vasser has raced at Nazareth Speedway. In his previous seven starts he has qualified in the top-10 three times with a high of second, in 1995, and finished in the top-10 four times including the win in 1998. The 35-year-old native of California is working on a streak that seen him finish 87 of his last 105 starts placing in the points 83 times.
Moreno, pilot of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, made steady progress throughout today's dual practice sessions. In the morning practice the team worked extensively getting the car balanced, but were only able to produce a fast lap of 21.821 seconds (156.070 mph) putting him 28th on the speed charts. In the afternoon session the Visteon/Patrick Racing team was one of the few to show significant improvement in the hotter conditions. Running a fast lap of 21.380 seconds (159.289 mph) Moreno finished 15th on the afternoon practice report which jumped him six places on the combined report to 22nd overall.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team made a great improvement to the car from this morning," Moreno said. "The set-up we came here with from last year wasn't working so we had to adapt and make some changes. My engineers Ed Nathman and David Dembecki came up with some good ideas and really improved the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard. We don't have the car perfectly set-up, but we definitely have a starting point and a direction to go tomorrow morning. Based on the progress we made from this morning to this afternoon, I feel quite good about qualifying tomorrow," concluded Moreno.
Moreno, who will be racing at Nazareth Speedway for the fourth time, is coming off the strongest oval season of his CART career. The talented Brazilian had the two best oval performances, and best 500-mile oval finish of career, last year, his first season with Patrick Racing, placing second at Homestead and Fontana. He also scored the most oval points in 2000 of any active driver. In nine ovals races last year he had seven finishes in the top-10 with five top-five performances including four podium showings. Moreno has finished in the points in 11 of his last 14 oval starts. His average oval qualifying position in 2000 was 10.66. His average finish was 7.11. In three previous races at Nazareth his best qualifying position is seventh, last year, and his best finish is 14th achieved twice, 1997 and last year. Moreno has finished in the points once in the first two races of the 2001 season, an 11th place showing at Long Beach. He has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 35 starts and in the points 23 times.
The will be a practice session tomorrow morning with qualifying for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota set to begin at 1:30 (ET). The race will be run on Sunday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on ABC.