CORBY, ENGLAND - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2001 -- Round ...
CORBY, ENGLAND - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2001 -- Round #17 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing placed two of their three Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynards in the points at today's inaugural Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England.
In a race that was shorted from its original 210 laps to 168 and eventually to 140, Jimmy Vasser drove the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard to a seventh place finish scoring points for the first time in eight races. Rookie Townsend Bell, in just his second champ car start, finished 12th in the #19 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard to earn his first FedEx Championship Series point. Roberto Moreno finished 13th in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard. All three cars had associate sponsorship from TotalFinaElf UK Limited and carried TOTAL signage.
After two days of delays due to rain and water seeping up through the track things finally got going today after extensive work by Rockingham Motor Speedway officials, some help from a beautiful sunny day and the assistance of jet blowers. Champ Cars went out for a 10-minute reconnaissance run at 11:15 am, then following an evaluation, a second 10-minute yellow flag session was conducted. The track finally went green (full speed) for practice from 12:15 - 1:45 PM. With a full practice finally in the books CART officials put together a condensed schedule for the remainder of the day. Officials also decided to reduce the race length from 210 to 168 laps. Gentlemen start your engines came well passed 4:30 PM and as the competition progressed the skies began to darken making it difficult to see. In the interests of safety CART officials decided to cut the distance an additional 28 laps.
Since qualifying was cancelled, drivers started the race based upon championship points. Vasser, who started 16th, moved up to 15th at the start of the race and was 12th after a first lap crash knocked two competitors from the contest and dropped one other from the top-10. He remained in 12th place until lap 37 when he picked up one spot. Vasser pitted for the first time on lap 53 entering and leaving in 11th place. He held station until lap 89 when he moved into the top-10, at number 10. During his second pit stop, on 100, Vasser got outstanding pit work from his #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew, which allowed him to pick up two more places moving into eighth. He continued to battle for position and eventually picked up one more spot to finish seventh.
"It was a tough day and a tough weekend because of the weather and track conditions, but I am happy we got the race in for the fans," Vasser said. "The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was good. It was a better car than we showed today, but overall I am happy to have scored some points. We went seven races without scoring any points so it is nice to get some here and break the streak," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who previously raced in the UK in 1990 as the winner of the Team USA Scholarship for the 1990 Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, earned five points for his effort today. He is now tied for 13th in the championship standings with 56 points. The native of California is 20 points out of 10th place. Vasser has placed in the top-10 seven times, the top-six five times and the top-five four times in 16 races this year. He has finished in the points in three of seven oval races. A veteran of nine plus CART seasons, Vasser has finished in the top-10 in the championship standings for six consecutive years including taking the title in 1996. He has started 162 CART races with 91 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings. The Las Vegas, resident has finished 92 of his last 117 races placing in the points 86 times (from Milwaukee '95). He has an outstanding record on ovals. In 64 CART oval starts he has finished in the points 45 times with 42 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podiums and five wins.
Bell, who was coming off a 13th place finish in his champ car debut last week in Germany, did himself one better by finishing 12th and earning one point. Starting last, 26th, because cars lined up based on championship points, Bell came out flying. He moved up five places on the opening lap to 21st, was 19th after the second lap, eighteenth after the third and 17th after the ninth. He stayed 17th until lap 39 when he slipped into 16th place only to drop back into 17th six laps later. Bell was still 17th after the first round of pit stops, but was back on the move on lap 82. He moved back up to 16th on the 82nd lap then into 15th place on lap 89. The #19 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew got Bell one place in the pits on his second stop putting him in 14th place. He moved into 13th place on lap 110 then got by Patrick Carpentier on lap 126 to move into a points paying position.
"We had to start last again because there was no qualifying, but I got a good start by going to the outside," Bell explained. "During that first incident on the opening lap I got into the back of somebody and flat spotted by tires. I had a bad vibration from the tires during that whole first stint and I was just hanging on. After we pitted the first time and changed the tires the #19 Visteon/Patrick Racing
Toyota Reynard was very nice to drive. I got into a rhythm and starting picking off a few cars and was able to bring the car home in the points," Bell said. "Once again I want to thank Mr. Patrick, Patrick Racing and Visteon for giving me this opportunity. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did an awesome job in the pits today. I have really learned a lot the last two races and hopefully, I will get to learn some more," Bell concluded.
The 26-year-old native of California's immediate plans are to continue to pursue the championship title in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship Series beginning two weeks from now at Road Atlanta. The resident of San Luis Obispo, Califronia has driven the #30 DIRECWAY Dorricott Racing Lola to a 22-point lead in the Indy Lights series, 131-109, with three races remaining. He has four wins and five poles in nine Lights races this year. Bell has six career Indy Lights wins and was the "Rookie of the Year" in 2000.
Moreno, who started ninth, dropped to 12th at the start, but was back up to 10th after the second lap. He remained in 10th place through the first round of pit stops then moved into ninth place on lap 89. Coming into the pits for his second stop he was in ninth, but after receiving fuel and tires he came back on track in 13th place. Moreno moved into 12th place on lap 107, but dropped back to 14th when Max Papis and teammate Bell slipped by him. During the closing laps of the race he managed to pick up one spot to finish 13th.
"The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was good today," Moreno said. "We were running good lap times and I was saving fuel. There were a couple of incidents on track that I got caught up in, but we were running our race and just looking for opportunities to pass people. On the last pit stop I came into the pits in ninth place and we put in just enough fuel to finish the race, but when I got back on track, suddenly, I found myself in 13th place. I don't know what happened, but I am sure that I had a top-10 car today," Moreno concluded.
The native of Brazil, who was returning to the UK where his car racing career began back in 1979, is now 11th in the championship standings with 74 points. He is just two points out of 10th place and 18 out of fifth. Moreno has now finished 14 of 16 races this year, tied for the most of any driver. He has placed in the points 11 of 16 times including eight of the last 11 events. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. He has three points paying placements in seven oval races this season. Moreno, who is in his eighth CART season, has scored points in 14 of his last 21 oval contests with 10 top-10 finishes, six top-five showings and four podiums.
Next up for Visteon/Patrick Racing is the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston on the streets of Houston, Texas, October 5-7. Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Jimmy Vasser is the defending champion.