IRL: Fernandez' momentum

IRL: Fernandez' momentum

Despite his twelve years at the top of open wheel racing, Adrian Fernandez is still learning the ropes in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. Adrian Fernandez. Photo by McQueeney. He joined the League's...

Despite his twelve years at the top of open wheel racing, Adrian Fernandez is still learning the ropes in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series.

Adrian Fernandez.
Photo by McQueeney.
He joined the League's premier oval series in March at Phoenix, the second round in a 16-event campaign and, after a few teething pains as he learned his car's and engine's temperament, the Mexican ace is on his way to the front of the pack.

Since failing to make the green flags at his home race (Fernandez lives in Paradise Valley, AZ) and suffering an engine problem at Twin Ring Motegi, 41-year-old Fernandez has recorded four top-seven results in four starts, not bad for a guy who is still learning the about his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone challenger.

Everything came together for Fernandez upon his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Having the ability to test daily, he got used to the Panoz G Force racer and Honda's newest 3- liter engine, required at Indy and for the balance of the 2004 season.

"I had to learn about the cars, the engines, the competitors and side-by- side racing, because I am not used to it. I have to learn the Panoz G Force chassis, learn more about my Honda motors and I feel I'm getting more comfortable with the competition on the track," Fernandez noted.

"The confidence level on our Fernandez Racing team is growing, but we still need to improve more the car to make it faster. We've got good progress on that process now and we're looking forward to moving ahead," he said.

Adrian Fernandez has always been noted for his consistency as a racer and, now that he's driving at a high level of confidence, the results are starting to show.

Adrian Fernandez.
Photo by Kenneth Plotkin.
He placed seventh in the 88th Indy 500, took fifth place in the Bombardier 500K at Texas Motor Speedway, was seventh on the Richmond International Raceway bullring in the SunTrust Indy Challenge and, last weekend earned sixth place in the Argent Mortgage Kansas Indy 300.

"We are pushing for a breakthrough in development of our Panoz G Force chassis, so we can be in position to win races. I'm confident in myself and in the team that we can do the job," Fernandez declared.

"Honda has been awesome this year. They were very strong in Japan and even stronger from Indy. On the shorter tracks they are getting better but we still haven't fully developed our car yet. We have to do a better job to get closer to the front," Fernandez said.

In his seventh IndyCar Series start, Fernandez will race this weekend on the Nashville Superspeedway, the concrete monster located southeast of Music City. The Firestone Indy 200 is one of six new circuits for the veteran, who "expects a bit less grip" on the unusual surface.

As this will be the League's final night race of the 16-event campaign, Fernandez is looking forward to another new adventure. "I've never been to Nashville, but I have heard a lot of good things about the city and how friendly everyone is there. I know they had a great crowd for the race last year," he recalled.

"Obviously, we'll have a bit of a learning curve with the track since I have never driven there and I'm sure the concrete surface will take some getting used to. Visually, with the surface being white instead of black asphalt that we are used to running, it should be interesting."

As an owner-driver on the IndyCar Series circuit, Fernandez wears two hats, but noted that he leaves the day-to-day operation of his team and the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing squad that runs Bombardier Rookie of the Year contender Kosuke Matsuura to Tom Anderson, team co-owner.

"We have very good people on the team and we let them do their jobs. There is so much to learn each weekend and that takes time for me. I am enjoying my driving now and don't have to extend myself" to balance the owning and driving on his team.

Fernandez does like the fact that this weekend's Nashville race is another two-day event. "I love the two-day races because there are no distractions during the weekend. One day you qualify and the next you race."

He is also glad the Indy Racing League has decided to ban in-season testing. "I enjoy not testing. It's very hard on the mechanics who have to do all the extra work," he indicated. "I like racing better anyhow. The limits on testing is great," Fernandez declared. "The point of it all is the racing, right?"

"We have been in the hunt the past four races and I am hoping Nashville is the place that we get the little break we need to get to the front," said the sole Mexican driver in the IRL. "The series is so competitive that an extra second on a pit stop or getting through traffic on the race track can mean the difference between finishing first or fourth. The team has been doing a great job and, considering we only have six races under our belts, I am really pleased with where we are right now."

The Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway airs live on ESPN this Saturday night at 7PM EDT. It is the eighth race in a 16-event schedule that ends at Texas Motor Speedway on October 17th.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Tom Anderson , Kosuke Matsuura