Ole! To Fernandez for First IRL Victory in Kentucky SPARTA, KY, 15 August 2004 - Veteran driver Adrian Fernandez didn't join the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series until the second race and had a steep learning curve through his...
Ole! To Fernandez for First IRL Victory in Kentucky
SPARTA, KY, 15 August 2004 - Veteran driver Adrian Fernandez didn't join the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series until the second race and had a steep learning curve through his first nine events, but in the IRL's 11th race in a 16-event campaign and his own tenth try at competition, the Mexican came first to the checkered flags, winning the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway today in his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda. Fernandez beat Buddy Rice's #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda to the flags by a scant .0581 seconds to record the ninth- closest finish in series history in front of 61,885 sun-drenched and happy fans.
"This team has gone through a lot," Fernandez acknowledged. "We started the season with no preparation and were just trying to catch up. Our Panoz G Force was so well balanced in the final laps; we wanted to be patient and after our great final pit stop we knew we could be very strong and very aggressive." Fernandez, who also co-owns his team and is a part owner of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing was pleased his teammate Kosuke Matsuura finished fourth in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda. "Fourth place is fantastic for Kosuke," he said.
Rice, the MBNA polesitter for the fifth time this year never left the top five during the 200-lap contest and hounded first Tony Kanaan and then Fernandez to the finish. "We made sizable changes to our Panoz G Force before the race and that helped the car in race trim," the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner said. "It's been a good day for us, for Honda (who clinched the manufacturers' championship and the top seven spots in this race) and for Panoz G Force who finished first and second. This track is much smoother than last year and I think that is why you saw really good racing today."
With Matsuura's fourth place finish and Vitor Meira's seventh place in his #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda, the sole IRL chassis designed and built in the United States had a good day. "We might have dialed in a bit too much mechanical grip," Meira said. "In clean air I had a very good car but in traffic, it was difficult to turn." Darren Manning logged a tenth place result in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, best for the marque. "We had clean pit stops and a clean race; while I'm not happy with tenth we'll take it and move forward," the Briton noted.
The IndyCar Series now ventures to the 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway for race #12, the Honda Indy 225 next Sunday, with Rice within 50 points of leader Tony Kanaan, holding 383 points to Kanaan's 433.