JACKSON, MI - - MAY 2, 2001 - - Patrick Racing heads to Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa., for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota, May 4-6, confident that their first victory of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season is just...
JACKSON, MI - - MAY 2, 2001 - - Patrick Racing heads to Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa., for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota, May 4-6, confident that their first victory of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season is just around the corner.
With solid performances by the team in the first two events of the season, Patrick Racing has good reason for confidence heading into this weekend's event. Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser have combined for three points paying finishes in the first two races, both street circuits, and while the team had a disappointing qualifying performance on the first oval of the season, at the recently postponed Firestone Firehawk 600, they are looking forward to a very competitive race on the one-mile Nazareth oval.
A significant part of Patrick Racing's confidence going into this weekend is Vasser's performance history on ovals and at Nazareth Speedway. Vasser has five oval victories, including one at Nazareth and most recently at Fontana both in 1998, in nine plus seasons of CART competition. This will be the eighth time he has raced at Nazareth Speedway. In his previous seven starts Vasser 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.
"I am very happy to be going to Nazareth this weekend," said Vasser. "I would love to have another performance there like I did in 1998. I really like the track. It is very challenging and great to race on. I am looking for the Patrick Racing team to be very competitive at Nazareth," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, pilot of the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, has had solid performances in his first two outings with the team placing sixth in Mexico and fifth at Long Beach. He is currently fifth in the championship standings with 18 points. Vasser is working on a streak that seen him finish 87 of his last 105 starts placing in the points 83 times. In 149 starts, he has 88 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles.
"Overall, Patrick Racing has had a good start to the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season," Vasser said. "We have finished in the top six in both races and are fifth in the points. But, the Patrick Racing team is not satisfied. We are here to win races and I know we can do it," concluded Vasser.
Another factor in Patrick Racing's confidence this weekend is Moreno's oval performance in 2000. The talented Brazilian is coming off the strongest oval season of his CART career. Moreno 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. This will be Moreno's fourth start at Nazareth Speedway. In three previous races his best qualifying position is seventh, last year, and his best finish is 14th achieved twice, 1997 and last year.
"Nazareth is a very challenging track. I don't have a lot of history there, but I think I learned a lot about the track last year. We had a good qualifying effort at Nazareth last year and I think we have a good baseline set up this year. I am looking for a very competitive effort at Nazareth this year," Moreno said.
Moreno, who is behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, has finished in the points once in the first two races, an 11th place showing at Long Beach. He is looking for a strong performance at Nazareth as he tries to duplicate the fast start that propelled him to a career high third in the championship standings last year. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 35 starts and in the points 23 times.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a bit of a slow start to the season. It is a different year than last year when we started fast. We just have to keep working hard. I am very confident. With Patrick Racing's long history of success, and the support of our manufacturers and sponsors, like Visteon, we should start producing some better results beginning this weekend," Moreno said.
One final factor in Patrick Racing's favor heading into this weekend's first oval race is its strong history of success on ovals, particularly since its return to CART competition in 1995. There have been 46 ovals races since 1995. Patrick Racing cars have started 79 times. They have 48 top-10 finishes, 28 top-five showings, five victories (Scott Pruett - Michigan - '95; Adrian Fernandez - Japan - '98; Fernandez - Japan - '99; Fernandez - Fontana - '99; and Fernandez - Rio - '00) and four poles (Raul Boesel - St. Louis - '97; Pruett - Michigan - '97; Fernandez - Michigan - '98; and Pruett - Fontana - '98).