CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Top-three finishers press conference, part II

CART Champ Car World Series top three press conference Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani Part 2 of 2 Eric Mauk: We are now joined by the winner of the G.I. Joe's 200, the driver of the No 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex ...

CART Champ Car World Series top three press conference

Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani

Part 2 of 2

Eric Mauk: We are now joined by the winner of the G.I. Joe's 200, the driver of the No 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Adrian Fernandez. Adrian takes his 8th career victory and his first as an owner/driver. This is Adrian's first victory since Surfer's Paradise in 2000 and moves him into the top five in the Championship points standing after eight events. Congratulations. How does it feel to be back on top of the podium.

Adrian Fernandez: It feels really good. It feels like I am a lot lighter now. I am just so proud of the team fighting, you know, just believing in the team and trying to get the team to work with how we wanted. We made some mistakes in the last few races, but we put it altogether this weekend. The car was very fast in the last pit stops -sorry - the last set of tires. That was the key because I managed to push pretty hard, Paul, to the point that he made a mistake coming into the last corner. That was the key. I didn't come as close as I wanted, but I was not going to give up. I say whenever he brakes, I am going to brake later. With these new rules I like the rules because you know, if I was in his position I'd have to stay in my line, I just break up inside of him. These rules about not moving not one move is really good, I think it makes it for better racing. You just have to drive very precisely all the time and little mistakes like that will cost you, and, you know, it will cost you the win or whatever. But that's part of racing. In the past you used to have to block and all that, and I think now it give you more opportunities for real racing.

Eric Mauk: Running second after the incident between Michel and Paul, (A) did you know Paul was going to have to serve a penalty and (B) leading into the pitstop how did that affect you how ran before that.

ADRIAN FERNDANDEZ: I saw them fighting there in one of restarts and obviously they were quicker than I was in the first two, three stints until I got my last set of tires and I think we learned a lot today for the future because that last set of tires was fantastic. I was like a second quicker. So we learned a lot there and when I saw Paul you know, having his problem with Michel, I didn't know what the problem was there, obviously Michel was out, at least the chances being there because we passed him. Then we get into the pit they didn't tell me anything. My team didn't tell me anything. I think they didn't want -- there was nothing we could do, but I could see that-- I thought Paul had a problem in the pitstop because I was very close to him, so obviously that was his penalty.

But at the end of the day that was not going to matter anyway because there were so many yellows at the end that I was going to catch him anyway, whatever lead he had. And with the tires that I had, I managed as you see in the first restart I was not able to stick with them but in -- since I have my last set of tires I was right, you know, right there with Paul, and they couldn't stay with me on the back.

So those set of tires were the key for me. That was really what gave me my win. The Bridgestone tires gave me that beautiful win and I managed to push very hard and I managed to have great restarts and it was good. At the beginning it was freaky with those restarts, I don't know how many starts we did, like five or six. I had a good one, a bad one, a good one, a bad one. At the end of the day, I managed to keep my position which I was happy. I saw somebody trying to make a move on the inside I say I hope he doesn't really get -- because it is one of those days you think there's a gap you see a lot of gaps and there's no grip, you know, and sometimes you know, I made mistakes like that, and everybody made it through OK I think. I think everybody realizes that it's better to make it through the first corner; not just make it on the track.

Eric Mauk:  Three years putting this team together, building it basically
from scratch.  What does it mean to the team to get this win today.

Adrian Fernandez: It's fantastic because this team started from nothing. We didn't have anything. We didn't have any people. It was just Paul, myself and obviously at that time it was Honda which was a big part of what we did. And you know, we started hiring people, good people behind us and from there we start to build it to the point that we have 50 people now. It's not easy, sometimes a lot of work, you know, it's like having a lot of kids sometimes (laughs). I have to be there and sometimes their personalities don't match some other people, obviously, results like this are going to make them believe in themselves more and believe in what we have. But when the results are not there it's very easy to point fingers at each other and you know, that's something that I was trying to stop and trying to make everybody work together because we have the talent and we put some new systems in place and some were here this weekend, the first weekend of the year, so it was fantastic to be able to win because I mean, we started -- we actually here in Portland had some of our first meetings planning this team and now to be able to win against teams like Newman/Haas and Jerry Forsythe team and Bobby Rahal, teams that have been there for so many years, for me, it's fantastic. A lot of people thought that my career was over and that I was just focusing on other things. A lot of people told me that I should retire, and things like that. The owning has been part of the circumstance that happened but I wanted to continue to be a driver and to have a team that can give me the tools eventually to win races like now. So I may be 40 year old, but 20 years in the heart and I still want to win and want to do it for many years more.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Questions for Adrian.

Q: How big is this win for you and your team?

Adrian Fernandez: I was having a lot of pressure with the sponsors and obviously I am not cheap and (LAUGHTER) you know, when you are not getting the results that you plan to do, I mean, when we were struggling it's not like you suddenly forgot how to drive, but I was suddenly faced with a lot of things that I didn't expect. And that was the hard part. It's been two years -- I mean, if you think about it, I mean, the first year I had several engine problems in the first year, it's easy to keep complaining and whining but it's the reality. We have seven engine problems in the first year. We could have finished 7th or 8th in the Championship. Second year we had some problems with the engine also and also we have some engineering problems; then we have my freak accident. That really took me out of everything. It took my strength. It took my heart. It was difficult. Then we had to get David Watson, but I didn't really have an opportunity to work with him. We signed David, but basically were new to each other. We shouldn't be this low on the points. We should be up there, and Germany was a joke, you know, I mean, we made a basic mistake on the aerodynamics. That was hard. It was hard on David and it was hard on some of those guys and it was trying to -- starting to get very hard at that time. We came back and we talk about things and everything, and that's why this win, after what has been happening, something, is fantastic. It wasn't a win that everybody fell out. We won on the racetrack. We were fast at the end and great pit stops. The guys didn't do a mistake. I drove well. Focused. I mean, it was fast fast fast, and I was very focused. I was not making any mistakes. Just the last two laps I say, I don't care how long -- how far I am from Paul I am going to slow down a little bit.

Q: Are you fully recovered from your injuries from last year?

Adrian Fernandez: I had spent so much time in therapy and training that you can't imagine. When I came here the steering wheel was so heavy, and I said to the guys, something is wrong, I can't drive and I asked Max Papis about it and he said he had the same thing so we put a little longer steering arm on and it was fine. I could have gone another 100 laps. I train three hours everyday. I used to go to physical therapy every Monday and Randy Johnson, he's coming to physical therapy with his knee, and we are good friends and I learned from his things and he's learned from mine and we have therapy every morning. And the problems like probably have for the rest of my life, those are crashes from breaking my hip but it's getting stronger, getting better, so it's something that I just have to keep working on it and eventually it will get better. I always tell people that have problems when they break something I say you go to physical therapy, that's the key to recuperate, the closest to 100%.

Q: What did you see on the opening starts?

Adrian Fernandez: I think because of the problems we have out at the start from the beginning I thought some of those starts should be good. Just never going to have the right start, but I think now everybody knows what to expect. Everybody knows the game. I knew what to expect. Sometime I pull out of the line -- I was in first gear almost stalling, first gear I was so slow, so I have to get out because I didn't want to hit Paul, because we were so close to each other that if he would brake I was going to hit him. Trying to avoid that, I just pulled out and I don't know, from what I could see from around me, I mean, I think two of those starts probably should have been good. I had one there, but really bad, which I am glad came from a yellow. My other was I was right there. Obviously Paul was trying not to lose his position but I think it's just one of those things. But the rules are the rules and so far this is the way they are, and I lost a race actually to Paul in Milwaukee on my restart, and I backed up exactly like what happened to Tagliani and I lost like three whole positions and that's a race we should have won, we dominated the whole weekend. Today it happened to us. Paul made a mistake and it was also because we were pushing him because he knew that we were right there.

Q: Were you surprised the Paul did not block you on your pass?

Adrian Fernandez: If he did, then he should get penalized because that's part of the new rules. You can't make any moves. I think he just behaved like a champion, he didn't do anything, and obviously was up to me to make the pass and I brake even later, my car was good, good on the braking. My car was good in that respect. I mean, he knew he was in trouble and it was up to me to make it happen.

Q: Did you know you had Paul set up for the pass?

Adrian Fernandez: Oh, yeah, as soon as I saw his brake and I came closer than ever to him then, it is now or never because you know that he made a mistake probably going to do another mistake, so for people to make those mistakes and at the level that we have at our racing you just have to go for it.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations, Adrian, thank you very much.


Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy