IRL: Kentucky: Race report

Fernandez Wins First IndyCar Series Event at Kentucky INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004 -- Adrian Fernandez held off a hard-charging Buddy Rice to claim his first IRL IndyCar® Series victory at the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky ...

Fernandez Wins First IndyCar Series Event at Kentucky

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004 -- Adrian Fernandez held off a hard-charging Buddy Rice to claim his first IRL IndyCar® Series victory at the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Fernandez, driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, won by .0581 of a second, the ninth-closest finish in series history. The win also secured Honda's first IndyCar Series manufacturer's title.

Fernandez, who ran among the leaders throughout the event, took the lead from Rice on Lap 151 of the 200-lap event, and then held off the challenges of Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Rice.

Rice finished second, his fourth top-two finish in the last five races, and cut Kanaan's points lead to 50 with five races remaining. Wheldon finished third, while rookie Kosuke Matsuura finished fourth, his career-best finish.

Kanaan finished fifth, his 10th consecutive top-five finish, continuing his IndyCar Series-record streak of consecutive top-five finishes.

BELTERRA CASINO INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "It's a fantastic feeling. A lot of work. This team has gone through a lot, and we have never ended up that we could win. We started the season with no preparation, just trying to catch up. We were very competitive in Indy, but we were just not able to get the speed that we wanted. Last two weeks, we had a test here. We tested a lot of things. I felt good. I think I have a car to be able to fight for the win. Some stretches of the race, I was a little loose in traffic, but we never lost focus. We started working our way to the front, and once we found our way to the front in the last restart, then it was all ours."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I think (Adrian) Fernandez had a lock on the line. Danny (Wheldon) was making sure I kept my eye on him, but the main thing was if someone got low and got the inside line, that was where it was going to be, and Fernandez had it. All you have to do is stay in front of the points and keep chipping away. There's no complaints right now. We're very happy with a second place, and we're slowly but surely chipping away."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I just really didn't have enough, to be honest. I think we are all just racing in line, so that's the way it panned out, but I like the results for Andretti Green Racing. I think that it was a little disappointing for Tony (Kanaan). He didn't gain any more points on Buddy (Rice), but I don't think he had the car. His car didn't seem very good in traffic. I'm on the podium. It would have been nice to win, but the podium is really good for the Jim Beam team."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Something happened. We lost a lot of speed for some reason after the restart, and we didn't know what was wrong. It wasn't fuel. Something happened to the car, and I didn't know what it was and a lot of people are going to look at it. It was at full throttle. We finished with the car we had. It was good, I got behind him but just couldn't catch him." (About his day): "I pitted two laps earlier than I should for the first stop, and I just couldn't hear anybody. It was a long day, so when you come back to buy a result like this with all of the struggles, it's pretty good."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "After yesterday, I knew the car was good, and after a few practice laps this morning, my car was really good. The team has done an awesome job."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "In clean air, I had a very good car. It was really fast. But with a lot of cars around me, it was difficult to turn the car. It just kept pushing. We might have had a little too much mechanical grip today. I thought for a while I could run with (teammate) Buddy (Rice), and we stayed together for some time today. But at the end, the car wasn't as good as I would have liked. But we had good pit stops today for the Centrix team, and we were in position to get to the top three. We got some more points and we are working hard to get to the top five in the standings. I'm very happy for the Honda guys and they clinched the Manufacturer's Championship today. That is very impressive this early in the season. That shows how prepared and strong they have been all season. Now that Adrian (Fernandez) won a race, I would like to get one, too. He drove a great race today, and I want to congratulate him. We'll be ready for the Colorado race. That is Centrix home area, and we want to put on a good performance for them."

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This was a great race for me. I lost the draft to start the race and ended up near the back of the field, but I had two really good restarts that allowed me to move up. Those restarts really gave me a lot of confidence, and once I was near the front I had a good enough car to hang on. This was a great race for the team. We've been working hard the last two weeks, and it's great to see some solid results."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We were running such a good race. I had such a good race car. I came in for the stop and stopped, then had my clutch fully depressed, and when they dropped me, it felt like the car was creeping a little bit, but my clutch was fully compressed. They were telling me to wait, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn't drop the clutch into neutral. So I started creeping some more, and eventually the front right guy told me to go, and I go and I look in my mirrors and I can't breathe properly and there are a whole bunch of fumes coming in, so I jumped out and made sure I wasn't on fire."

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We were having an awesome day. It was great to see both Tommy (Scheckter) and myself hanging in there at the front. I got held up on the pit stop when Tomas had trouble, and we fell way back in the field. We were in the process of making that up, and I was running pretty high coming out of Turn 2, and somebody moved up and cut the air off my nose. I was so high anyway that I didn't have anywhere to go. What a shame for these Panther guys. We had the two best handling cars out there today and were poised for a great finish."

DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I had some pretty good runs but halfway through the race I lost the pack and just ended up racing around by myself. It got pretty frustrating. At the beginning of each stint it was a bit of a struggle on new tires, and the front was really pushing and that would drop me back and compound the problem. It got much better at the end of the stints but by then the damage was done. On the positive side, we had clean pits stops and a clean race. I'm not happy with 10th place because that isn't where we should have been, but we'll take it and move forward."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't need that last yellow, as we had been saving fuel for a run to the end. But, it was a great run for the ArcaEx team in that we finished strong. We were really strong in the pits. That's where we made most of our passes. The guys have really been working hard on their pit stops, and today was awesome. It was a hard day out there, but the ArcaEx car really came alive on long runs, with about 15 laps to go in a stint. If it had gone green to the end, we might have caught the leaders."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "Things didn't go our way today, but Marlboro Team Penske really stayed with it all afternoon. The car was handling well, and we were running fine until we came in for our third pit stop (on Lap 139). When we pulled into pit lane, Scheckter had his incident and the track went yellow. We had a miscommunication, so when I pulled into my pit, we decided to pull right back out. As a result, we went down a lap after we had to come back in with the rest of the field to get tires and fuel. It was really just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, that's the way things go, and now we'll just have to turn our attention to next week's race at Pikes Peak."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "What a rough day. We started the race with a low downforce setup which didn't work. The car had oversteer and understeer. It just wasn't handling well at all. Since we were running at the back of the pack, we decided to make a change and add more downforce by putting bigger under wing wickers on the car. My Marlboro Team Penske crew did a great job making the change and keeping me on the lead lap. The car was better, but we just couldn't get to the front of the field. We're still fourth in the Championship point standings and are looking forward to Pikes Peak next weekend."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I did it right the first time, then stalled in the pits and gave it all back. I just didn't have enough time to get back to them at the end. If we had just had some track position early on, I think we'd have something for them today. The XM Satellite Radio car was very, very competitive, so I'm disappointed to have not finished better."

ROBERT CLARKE (Vice President and General Manager Honda Performance Development): "We basically reached the end of last season knowing where we were and where we believed our competition was, and we focused our efforts on trying to make the biggest improvements we could. It is a very difficult game, because you never really know exactly where you are with competition until you show up for the first race of the season. Now we kind of had two opportunities to do that this year, because the IRL threw us a curve with new 3.0 liter formula. So we entered the season of course at Homestead for the first race with the 3.5 liter and then we had a second chance to see where we were and face-off with our competition at Indy with the 3.0-liter. Luckily we did our homework well, and we came out in top in both formats."

***

<pre> 10 CLOSEST FINISHES IN INDYCAR SERIES HISTORY Margin Date Venue Winner Runner-up 1. 0.0024 9/8/02 Chicagoland Sam Hornish Jr. Al Unser Jr. 2. 0.0051 7/4/04 Kansas Buddy Rice Vitor Meira 3. 0.0096 9/15/02 Texas Sam Hornish Jr. Helio Castroneves 4. 0.0099 9/7/03 Chicagoland Sam Hornish Jr. Scott Dixon 5. 0.0111 6/8/02 Texas Jeff Ward Al Unser Jr. 6. 0.0121 7/27/03 Michigan Alex Barron Sam Hornish Jr. 7. 0.0188 10/6/01 Texas Sam Hornish Jr. Scott Sharp 8. 0.0281 3/24/02 California Sam Hornish Jr. Jaques Lazier 9. 0.0581 8/15/04 Kentucky Adrian Fernandez Buddy Rice 10. 0.0590 6/11/00 Texas Scott Sharp Robby McGehee

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The next IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy 225 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 22 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the Pikes Peak 100 at 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. on Aug. 25.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Al Unser Jr. , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jaques Lazier  , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing