IRL: Fontana: Top-three race finishers transcript (part 2)

Continued from part 1 MODERATOR: Congratulations, gentlemen. We're joined by the winner of the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway, Adrian Fernandez. Adrian, congratulations to you. Very successful run in the second half of the season....

Continued from part 1

MODERATOR: Congratulations, gentlemen. We're joined by the winner of the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway, Adrian Fernandez.

Adrian, congratulations to you. Very successful run in the second half of the season. It's the third win for you in the last five races, including back-to-back wins with our last race at Chicagoland Speedway a couple weeks ago.

Tell us a little bit about today, especially the last few laps of the race, there were some restarts involved, you and Tony Kanaan were side-by-side for much of the last 15, 20 laps. Tell us how that went and how you came to the line first.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you. Well, first I have to tell you, I'm so excited about these last five races. I can't believe it. By far it's my best season ever. I don't remember ever a season that I had that I have these five races so strong; three wins, one second place, one seventh, which could have been a fourth.

I give credit to a great team. Great leadership in Tom Anderson, keeping the guys focused, doing a great job, me not doing stupid things on the track, back off when you have to back off, push when you have to push.

This win is very significant, especially battling with Tony Kanaan the last few laps, especially because I took the lead before, but it was not at the right time. I thought with that yellow, with that crash, there is no way we were going to have enough laps to get to the end. But everybody did a great job on cleaning the track and getting back at least four laps. That really gave us the win.

The conditions were tough. The tires were really covered by rubber. I was pretty concerned about that. On the restart, on the last restart, I lost the rear-end a little bit. You know, just because we have so much rubber built up on the tires, not just me, but everybody. Coming into Turn 1 and 2, I knew I couldn't lift. I knew I had to stay right beside Tony. And the car was there. You know, he was there at the end. Without that car, I couldn't have won. So I give all the credit to my team.

MODERATOR: Sitting next to Adrian, co-owner Tom Anderson. Congratulations to you on also three wins in the last five races.

TOM ANDERSON: Well, I think what we're seeing here today is this is the fourth year of Fernandez Racing. You know, our partners at Honda have obviously created quite an engine. Our partners from Mexico, Quaker State, Telmex, Tecate, have stayed with us through some pretty thin beginning years. We were quite concerned about our transition into the Indy Racing League this year.

As Adrian's proved, the fact that with our second car Kosuke (Matsuura) has added a second dimension to our team whereby we can try several things on a weekend with a limited testing schedule. Part of the credit goes to Kosuke as well.

So it's a combination of having all 50 people pulling in the same direction every day of the week. I think that John Ward, Chris Finch, John Dick have done a tremendous job with the engineering. I think it came down, since we were going Honda on Honda on that last lap, I think we've got to thank (Panoz) G Force for a little bit less drag on that deal because we didn't win by much, but as this is probably the most competitive league that Adrian and I have ever participated in, a little bit means an awful lot.

Q: Adrian, this is the second time you won a race where somebody clinched a title. You have a knack for that. Talk about how in a way somebody kind of takes the celebration spotlight away from you.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I tell you what, nobody will take this one from me. It was fantastic for us. I mean, it was -- we all sort of felt that Tony was going to wrap-up the championship this week. I mean, he's been so consistent all year. I knew even though he was in the back, I knew he was going to go to the front pretty quickly.

He's a great competitor. I've seen Tony develop from Indy Lights up through here. He was with us in Tasman. I couldn't be happier for him. He's a great champion, a great competitor. To fight with him the last few laps, actually beat the champion, for me is a privilege.

Q: Adrian, when you and Dan were running fourth and fifth a long while with the leaders ahead, were you guys sort of trying to work together to get near the leaders or was that a hundred percent fight between the two of you?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You mean Dan Wheldon and myself? We were working. I tell you, I have to also congratulation Dan because he's a tremendous driver. He's a very smart driver. I mean, he knew I had a little stronger car, so he had to sit down and help me help him go to the front. We were catching them. We were 11 or 12 seconds behind the leaders, and we got it down to eight seconds. But we were working together. We were working the traffic. We were working everything.

You know, when you have somebody behind you that close to you, it really helps you. It cuts the air better. You get a little bit quicker. So that's what we were trying to do. We were trying to get the pack, because we lost it.

When I got the lead right at the start of the race, I stayed there. Then we came into the pits. A lot of guys didn't change tires, and we did. I stayed in the middle. But my car was not working really well at that stage in traffic. Like I've done other times, I just backed off and I just tried to settle down and wait for my car to get some grip. Once the car started feeling better, started getting a little more grip, that's when I started attacking and that's when I started getting more positions, and that's when I started getting to the front.

So, yes, we did try to get to the front, but it was going to be very hard to get to them with eight seconds. That yellow flag really helped us a lot.

Q: This is the first time in your career since you were in Champ Car and now in IRL that you won consecutive races, and the fourth time that you managed to get consecutive wins. What is the feeling?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: The feeling is really good. I can't believe it, you know. It's like, "Wow, we're winning." We were so competitive these five races. We found something on the car, I tell you. I mean, I was not very happy six, seven races ago. I was not a happy camper. I mean, I was very upset with the engineers because we didn't -- to me, they were not doing enough of good job to be able to beat Rahal (Letterman Racing), which had the same combination that we had.

But, you know, then I have to give them all the credit because they came with good solutions on the car. We had a good test in Kentucky. After that test, basically we realized what this car lacked, and we found some things to make the car stronger. Since then we've been very competitive in all types of ovals, small ovals, big ovals, medium ovals, everything. It makes me very proud as a driver. It makes me very proud as a co-owner with Tom Anderson to achieve this success.

Q: Going into that last lap, Tony said he wanted to go for the win, but he knew that Adrian would take care of him. Was that something you were real conscious of?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I mean, like I say, Tony's a great driver, a great champion. This is not the first time I've been competing with him. I've been competing for many years with him, like Helio (Castroneves) and Bryan Herta, all these guys, we've been competing for many years. I mean, they're great drivers.

We know they're not going to do stupid things, never going to surprise you. They know I'm not going to do stupid things, also. We're clean. If you have a faster car or you got him on the inside for some reason, you got to give him the space. We don't do stupid things like that, and at the end, the best car won. That's what happened.

You know, he kept his line, and I kept my line. We made an exciting finish for both of us. But clean enough to get to the end.

Q: Tom, about Kosuke, Rookie of the Year award. Summarize what that signifies.

TOM ANDERSON: Well, you remember last year we were sitting in the same position. Mr. Wheldon took it away from us at the last race, so I'm not counting anything until I get to Texas and get that thing done.

Kosuke had a big learning curve today. (Ed) Carpenter stayed right there. We still have a lead, but mathematically, this thing is not over. Ed's going to have to do quite a bit at Texas, but you remember when we were at Texas 1 earlier in the year, Kosuke was leading that race. I look for a lot of things out of the Panasonic car these two weeks.

Q: Tom, Adrian was saying six, seven, eight races ago, he wasn't very happy with the car. You started out the season slow. You're in fourth place in the points now. How many long hours did you and your crew spend to get the car to where it is today?

TOM ANDERSON: I'm not sure that we added hours, but we sure added intensity, because when you have a driver with the experience of Adrian, and also happens to be the majority owner, and he tells you that the car is s-h-i-t, you got to get to work. You know, Rahal (Letterman Racing) at the time were having a tremendous run. We studied that car quite hard. We borrowed some things that they did and added a few of our own, which I don't think they've seen yet. Some of them are not necessarily available to the naked eye.

Intensity is what was generated there by Adrian's comments there to get us motivated to do that. He did that, and the guys responded

Q: How much can you do with the aero package on the car? There are things that you can do around the wheel that can be added.

TOM ANDERSON: The thing that you want to remember, in this series, there's only a couple of areas that you can actually develop where there's new pieces which are obvious to the camera. But what you need to do here is understand the relationship from the ambient temperature, the weather, the ride height of the car is absolutely incredibly sensitive. If you get that a millimeter off, that makes a big difference over the situation for the day.

The majority of the teams last night had to change the cars because the downforce we had last night with the cooler temperatures, everyone that was running up front made changes today. Now, with the camera, you wouldn't see it, but we're talking about five mill. That's huge. That's probably 50 pounds of downforce. These are the kinds of things.

You know, comparing a Ferrari to a Minardi, you can see differences and things can happen that way. The difference between the front of the grid here, even some of the engineers can't really see because sometimes it's hard to see a five-mill difference in that.

It's a very, very technical sport right now. To the untrained eye, doesn't look like anything going on, but believe me, there is a tremendous amount going on.

Q: Adrian, before you got in the car, one of your guys came up and was talking about exactly that, about ride height. You're one of the few drivers that understands and concerns himself with that. Your crew does pay attention.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, that's the only way to learn, right? We don't look at ride height, because that's hard to see. We look more at how much downforce each car has. We don't have some of the numbers that the Dallara has, but we know the (Panoz) G Forces. You see how much downforce your competitors went into the race with and get an idea from the Dallaras, then you learn from that for the future.

You know, at the end of the day, it's a lottery for everybody going into the race. Nobody's certain what's going to happen, how the conditions are going to change with the setup of your car. You may have too much downforce, you may have not enough downforce. It's a compromise. It's a compromise to the driver what his engineer picks before the race. You may be able to win with it or you may screw up. As long as you're trying, trying to get better, trying to learn from it, that's the only way. So that's why we always pay attention.

But we're not the only ones. Believe me, every team is paying attention to what everybody is doing.

MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Tom Anderson