CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Fern?ndez Racing preview

Fernández ready for racing return at St. Petersburg. The 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford gets underway with the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend, and Adrian Fernandez is anxious to get...

Fernández ready for racing return at St. Petersburg.

The 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford gets underway with the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend, and Adrian Fernandez is anxious to get back to business. The last time Fernandez, the only competing owner/driver in the Champ Car World Series, took the green flag for the start of a race was on October 6, 2002, for the Grand Prix Americas in Miami.

Fernandez has spent the off-season in physiotherapy and an intensive fitness program to recuperate from two fractured vertebrae, injuries sustained in a multi-car crash at the start of the Australia race on October 27. He returned to the cockpit for the first time on January 25 for pre-season testing.

The excitement of the new season coupled with the debut of the St. Petersburg venue have both Fernandez and his third year team anxiously awaiting the drop of the green flag this Sunday.

Adrian Fernandez, Owner/Driver -- #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

* Will be making his 161st Champ Car career start

* Enters his 11th season of Champ Car competition with seven career wins and three pole positions

* Best career road/street course start was pole position in Monterrey, Mexico, last year

* Best career road/street course finishes were wins in Australia (2000), Mid-Ohio (1998) and Toronto (1996)

* Has finished over half of his 50 career street course starts in the top 10

"I am very excited about the start of the season. This will be my first race in awhile, and the main thing for me is to get back into a rhythm. I have been working very hard physically to be as close to 100 percent as I can be for St. Petersburg.

"From what I have seen of the track and from speaking with Bruno [Junqueira], who did a few exhibition laps, it is a very nice circuit. With the beautiful scenery, it is the perfect site for a Champ Car event and a great place to start the new season.

"Obviously there will be a lot of new teams and new faces at the first race, but there is a lot of talent there. During the ten years that I have been racing in Champ Cars, we have had a lot of surprises from rookies. [Juan Pablo] Montoya is a good example. You can never underestimate the rookies and new competition."

FAST FACTS: Thirty-seven years old from Mexico City-- formed Fernandez Racing in the fall of 2000 with Tom Anderson-- only competing owner/driver in the series-- is the third most-winning driver in the current Champ Car field-- ranked 11th in CART all-time career starts-- made Champ Car debut at Long Beach in 1993-- has 19 Champ Car career podiums to his credit-- last win was at Australia in 2000-- last pole position was at Milwaukee in 2002-- looking for his first win as an owner/driver-- the last win by an owner/driver was in 1992 when Bobby Rahal won at Nazareth.

For more information, please visit www.fernandezracing.net. For additional information on the Champ Car World Series, please visit www.champcarworldseries.com.

-fr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Tom Anderson