NAZARETH, PENNSYLVANIA - SATURDAY, MAY 5, 2001 -- Round ...
NAZARETH, PENNSYLVANIA - SATURDAY, MAY 5, 2001 -- Round #4 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser qualified 11th while teammate Roberto Moreno will line-up 16th for tomorrow's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Vasser, in the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, began the day 14th on the combined practice report with a fast time of 21.179 seconds (160.801 mph). In today's morning practice, which was run in two groups based on FedEx Championship Series points, he went out with the second group (those with the most points). Running in much cooler conditions than yesterday, and with improvements the engineering staff developed overnight, Vasser quickly bettered his time by .8 of a second and six mph turning a quick lap of 20.394 (166.990 mph). However, just as the second group was beginning to really show some speed rain cut the session short. Vasser's time in the morning practice moved him up six spots on the speed charts putting him in the eighth position. Qualifying, which is now conducted in reverse order of the point standings, was delayed by several minutes due to the rain. However once it got under way, again in cool weather, Vasser when out 22nd of the 26 drivers entered. Fighting a an understeering problem, Vasser was still able to run his fastest time of the weekend clocking in at 20.191 seconds (168.669 mph) putting him on the inside of row #6.
"The Patrick Racing team struggled with a little to much understeer," Vasser said. "I think we have a good race car and I think we can go a little quicker around here, which I hope to do in tomorrow's race. Our qualifying position is not bad...we just missed it by a little bit. It is not the best qualifying position I have had here, but it is what we have and I am happy to race from the 11th position," Vasser concluded.
Vasser has now qualified in the top-10 in two of four races this year (ninth in Mexico, eighth in Long Beach, 22nd in Texas and 11th at Nazareth). He has qualified in the top-10 four times in eight attempts at Nazareth (he has finished in the top-10 four times including a win in 1998). Vasser will be looking to continue his solid start to the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season tomorrow. He has finished sixth (Mexico) and fifth (Long Beach) in the first two races of the season and is currently fifth in the championship standings with 18 points. Tomorrow's race will be the 150th start of his CART career. In nine plus seasons has amassed 88 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles. Among his nine wins are five oval victories, including the one at Nazareth and most recently at Fontana, also 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, started the day 22nd on the combined practice report with a quick time of 21.380 seconds (159.289 mph). In morning practice he went out with the first group, which got in a full 45-minute session unlike the second group. Taking full advantage of the time, Moreno ran a fast lap of 20.596 seconds (165.352 mph), which, like his teammate, jumped him six places on the speed charts to 16th overall. In qualifying Moreno went out what is referred to as 12A, right after 12 and before 14, and, again like his teammate turned his quickest lap of the weekend coming in with a time of 20.353 seconds (167.327 mph). He will start on the out side of the eighth row.
"I am quite happy," Moreno said. "I think the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has done a great job here. We started Friday with not such a great car, but we worked hard and came up with quite a good qualifying car. It is also a good race car. This is the fastest time we have done all weekend, so we have been improving. I think it was a very good effort by the Visteon/Patrick Racing team."
Moreno continued saying, "Nazareth is one of the most challenging tracks I have ever competed on. You come here the first time and it is a little different. After you have been here three or four times you learn more and become more comfortable. Most importantly, this has been a very positive weekend so far for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. The relationship between my new Engineer David Dembecki and myself has been developing and we are working quite well together. I am also quite please with the transition to the Toyota engine. It has been quite good," Moreno noted.
Moreno, who 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, will be racing at Nazareth Speedway for the fourth time. In three previous races his best qualifying position is seventh, last year, and his best finish is 14th achieved twice, 1997 and last year. Moreno, who has finished in the points once in the first two races of the 2001 season, an 11th place showing at Long Beach, is coming off the strongest oval season of his
CART career. He 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. The talented Brazilian has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 35 starts and in the points 23 times.
Patrick Racing's has a 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).
The Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota will be run on Sunday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on ABC.
Regarding rumors that Vasser will compete at the Indianapolis 500:
"Yes, it is a little ironic, but I have been approached by Chip Ganassi to drive one of his cars at the Indianapolis 500. However, nothing has been decided yet. Mr. Patrick and Chip have to sit down and discuss the situation. I had some other options to go to Indy, but they either fell through or weren't the right situation. My best opportunity is to go with Chip. However, I don't want anything to take away from my effort at Patrick Racing and winning the FedEx Championship. I don't want Mr. Patrick to just say its okay for me to run. He has to support and be happy with the decision or I won't do it. I look at it this way. The best things in life come naturally. If running at Indianapolis is supposed to happen, then it will. If not then it doesn't."