CART Media Conference
August 29, 2000
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference and thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest today is driver Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing who stands fourth in the FedEx Championship Series Championship heading into this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver at Concord Pacific Place, Vancouver, British Columbia. Good afternoon, Adrian, thanks for being with us today.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you, it is my pleasure.
T.E. McHALE: Adrian, the driver of the No. 42 Tecate, Quaker State Patrick Racing Ford Reynard is in his 8th season in the FedEx Championship Series and his third with Patrick Racing. He owns six career victories; including one earlier this season at Rio de Janeiro and one career pole position. Beginning with that earlier victory at Rio, Adrian has scored championship points in 11 of his past 12 FedEx Championship Series starts with podium finishes of 2nd at Toronto, and 2nd in his most recent start at Road America. He owns 10 Top-10 finishes; five Top-5s, and has been running at the finish in 11 of 14 events this season, more than any other driver in the FedEx Championship Series. Adrian has finished 6th or better in 30 of his past 50 FedEx Championship Series starts dating to the 1997 season finale at California Speedway. He stands fourth in the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed, with 1,784 of a possible 2,012 and third in miles completed with 2,888.497 of a possible 3,309.751. Heading into this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver, he stands fourth in the Championship with 103 points, but is only 3 points behind third place, Gil deFerran, of Marlboro Team Penske who has 106. The Molson Indy Vancouver, Round 15 of the FedEx Championship Series will be televised live on ABC this Sunday September 3rd beginning at 4 P.M. eastern time. With that, we will begin opening it up to questions for Adrian.
Q. Often by the time you guys get to Vancouver the Championship is almost decided. This year it is up in the air. I wondered if you have ever seen it this competitive?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Never. Never. And I think all the drivers are talking about it. It's never been this hard, so competitive. And I think it is just very challenging for everybody. There are so many different winners. There is even drivers that haven't won races that they are due to win like, for example, Kenny Brack and things like that. I think what is happening is just that -- well, firstly, Toyota got up to speed very strongly this year and most of the teams, their teams are running very strong. And everybody is just running better than ever. So it makes it a very, very competitive series. I am just glad we are consistent and we have been able to stay on the top of.
Q. What about the silly season; have you ever seen one like this?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: No, I never been in that silly season like this. And I have never heard so many things about me that I didn't even know. So it is interesting and I think it is good for racing.
Q. Anything in particular about Vancouver you like about coming up here?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, Vancouver, if you remember last year, I didn't race there since I broke my arm. PJ did an outstanding job in qualifying; putting the Tecate car in second place. I like the city, it is one of my favorites. The track, unfortunately, has been changed for the last few years and I haven't driven this new section -- there are two sections that I haven't driven. I remember the last time I was there in the very fast section into the pits, I had a huge crash there. Now I think there is like a Chicane there and also into the back straight now, instead of having that Chicane, it is fast corner going into the back straight. I haven't been there. But I know most of the track; it will be nice to be back in Vancouver.
Q. I wondered if you could shed any light on what your situation is right now in terms of the silly season? Obviously a lot of talk about maybe something going on with you and Tom Anderson and starting your own team next year and where, if anything, you know, where that is at?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I am working as you know, in all the possibilities that have been presented to me in the last few weeks and I have been working on all these things for the last few weeks very strongly, so I suppose that I should be able to know something in the next few weeks. I can't tell you which side I am leaning more towards either towards doing my own team or being with another team or staying with Patrick Racing. I have talked to Pat about it. I have talked to different teams and to be honest, I have very good opportunities in both sides and at this time what I have to think is what is the best -- what does Adrian Fernandez want to do in the future. Where do I want to go. For how long I want to keep racing. Am I just going to be a driver or at some stage -- I have always been interested in doing my team, maybe not -- maybe not this early, but sometimes opportunity comes at times where you can't refuse doing those steps. So I have to consider all those things and there is some issues that have to be resolved in the next couple of weeks for me to be able to make my decision. What it is, I can tell you that it is going to be first-class.
Q. Could you maybe just elaborate a little bit on what the attractiveness is -- would be to you in terms of starting and owning your own team versus driving for somebody else again.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I have been around for a long time and I think I have learned a lot of things that I think I can apply to it. It will be -- I think can be a good opportunity for Mexico in case I retire in the future not just -- if I retire and something happens, then racing doesn't just end like that. I would like to see something happen after whenever I decide to retire. For me it will be very important to help other young Mexican drivers but also the key thing is to make the team competitive. It is not just going to be based on Mexican drivers. It is going to be based on the best talent that we can find. If that is what we decide to go, of course, with one big aim is to help Mexican drivers also. But at the same time, I have to -- with the team, it is a separation where you can control your destiny a little bit more and I think learned a lot of things where I can apply it in a way that I can do it directly instead of, you know, instead of through secondary people which you don't directly control. I think it's a challenge, but I have always have changes. You know, I am a driver that -- I am not just a driver. I have been dealing with my sponsors and the other side of the business for all my life. Doing a team will not be something strange to me since -- when I was in Mexico I used to own my team. Of course, this is a much, much higher level but at the same time everything is about people. I believe that if that happens I have the right people.
Q. You have been over the last six or seven races very, very consistent. I think top -- at least top 7s in all those races. What is the reason why things have really gone so well over the last number of weeks?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, to be honest we have a lot of bad luck at the beginning of the season. I mean, I have two engine failures right at start of the season where two of those races I could have won and that was Miami and Long Beach. After that it was just stupid things that happened to us. That is the case in Detroit remember that is another race where I could have finished in the Top-5. Or you go into practice and you -- that particular time you have a problem and you go into, for example, Portland, that is a good case, we were very fast there. We were strong. We were like Top 4 in general practice in the morning. Then we go to qualify and the NASCAR cars just qualify and they completely cover the track with rubber. Even though I was like 7/10 faster than anybody in my section, I still was 13 overall, so I couldn't get into the quick group. Just things like that, we just couldn't get a break. We were running competitive, but things were not happening. Just now I think everything is just getting into place where we should be, and this championship is very, very strong; it is very hard to finish in the races in the Top 6 consistently, and I think we have done a very good job in terms of -- with our team, with our pit stops, with our consistency on the track, and to be able to, I think, to win this Championship I believe we need to win a couple more races. But if we keep finishing also in the Top-5, I think we have a wig chance of winning it.
Q. A little more about the silly season, but not to put too much pressure on you, do you think -- I hate to put words in your mouth with all the craziness that this maybe one of the best times if you are looking to make a change because it seems like more people are looking this year to make a change, can you comment?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, definitely. To be honest, I have never been in such a good situation, and sometimes you don't have choices and at the moment I have a lot of extremely good choices and I am in a very good situation from the standpoint of my sponsors; from the standpoint of getting offers from other teams even without my sponsors and it is a good problem to have. And I feel very fortunate to be in this situation, but I think it is also from our consistency in the last few years on what we have been able to prove to the team owners that, you know, that we can do a good job and at this stage of my career I think it is a very good confidence boost to have all these opportunities. I just need to make the right choice at the end and hopefully I will make the good one.
Q. Did you see yourself this far along when you were sleeping outside the garage in England?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: No. I always had big dreams to come here, but no, I never thought that I was going to be able to achieve what I have achieved in my business -- not because of the way of driving, but because I knew it was very difficult to find the finance and find the support from Mexico to get here and things like that. It is amazing, now eight years has passed since the last -- the first time I came here in Indy Lights or nine years and a lot of things have happened. But also a lot of hard work has been involved there and, you know, a lot of work with the sponsors; a lot of work with a lot of people and also myself in my training, in my driving and I think I have been able to have the ability to improve to be consistent and now the experience has put me in a good situation where we don't make stupid mistakes and we manage to sometimes -- most of the cases try to make the right choices when we are driving, things like that. So I am very proud of what we have done and achieved and, you know, this has been a very good example for my country in Mexico. That is what I have been talking about the possibility of doing our own team, that it will be a little sad just to -- all these things that we have been able to achieve through the years and learn, you know, all these experiences to just let it go like that. I think all this experience, all these things that I have been able to learn through, you know, hard work, through the years, it will be very useful if that manages to happen. Then I can pass that into whoever is part of the team and future of Mexico in racing.
Q. Ford seems to have intensified their efforts this year and it seems like they are just getting closer and closer to being consistently at the front. Can you talk about their program this year a little bit?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, to be honest, the team that has impressed me the most this year is Penske. I think the most consistent in terms of speed. Everywhere we go they are always the fastest. They are almost always the fastest. Roger had a tough few years in the last seasons and he rebuilt completely his team and he has done a very good job and he deserves to be where he is because, you know, they worked very hard for it. Now what we have to do is try to stop them. The job they have been doing in modifying or just making that Reynard better, they are doing it really well. So what we have to do is try to beat them about what we have and that is the consistency; that is the -- you know, the strategies that we use in our races that have helped us to stay with these top teams. Newman/Haas, also Michael has been very consistent. But I believe Patrick Racing has the tools to be able to, at the end, to have the average and the opportunity to beat them.
Q. I wonder if could you talk little bit about the test in Laguna and what you hope to gain from it and perhaps maybe if you had problems or you were just trying different things?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, well, I went into a place wherever you learn there you will not be able to use anywhere else. It a very unique track and these days every track has their individual likeness in terms of setup. Not all -- because you were passing some places, you are going to be faster and we went there testing and we didn't, to be honest we didn't find the balance that we wanted. But at the end Roberto tried something in his car that I think got us in a direction that we wanted to be and of course testing is all about trying new things - things that may not even work and you may not get the performance of the car that you may want, but at the end of the day you, you know, you are testing things and you have the time to do it and when we come back, we should be able to achieve what we want. This next few races I believe we have the capability of being at the front. As I say, the main thing is to be consistent. You may not be the quickest every weekend, but if you can qualify in the Top 6 to Top 8 every race, I think you have a good chance of finishing on the podium each race and that would put you in a very good way to fight for the Championship at the end.
Q. Currently there is two Mexican drivers in CART. Additionally there are several guys in the Lights. What do you think the future is for Mexican drivers in CART? Do you see something like a Brazilian invasion as we see now?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It will be hard because in Mexico it is still -- even though it is very strong, in terms of popularity of watching our races all that, it is still not as strong in the support for the drivers at this level. There is not as much support as there is in Brazil. I may be in a few years ahead but not in the next, you know, years to come. It is going to take a while and I think what we have to do is just try to concentrate and -- on building up the racing from the bottom in Mexico so we can -- the thing in Brazil is that -- the reason there are so many good drivers is that every year there is tons of drivers that come up from different small promotional series and from hundreds of drivers that come every year, of course there, is going to be always a good talent and the school is very good, very competitive. So that is what we have to create in Mexico to be able to bring talented drivers for the future. And I am a big part of that. I have been trying to help as much as I can and when my opportunity comes I will be able to influence that into our future drivers.
Q. Vancouver always impresses me as one of those wonderful cities where there are so many things to do and so little time to get them all done. How do you take care of all of your obligations this weekend and still maintain a focus on driving in such a great city?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Right, what I do, for example, I am leaving today. I told Kevin my PR guy that I was basically not going to do anything on Wednesday and Thursday and that is going to be my day off. And then Friday, Saturday, Sunday, that is when I am going to be working. I have a lot of people from Mexico. I think there is 70 people coming from Tecate and another 40 from Quaker State and also from Telnex. I have already arranged dinners at night and all that. But we do it in such a way that allows me enough time to sleep, to relax, to concentrate on what I have to do with my engineer and it is not -- nothing different than any other weekend in terms of what you have to do and you get used to it. What I have to prepare myself is for next year when I go to Mexico and race because that is going to be totally different and there is going to be so many people in Mexico, so many people that want to be with you that we sort of have to draw the line at some stage otherwise it will be very, very hard for us to perform. I think people at the end will understand.
Q. You always have seemed to be more hands-on as a driver than many of the other drivers in their own promotion and all, so you would be good as a team owner when you decide to go there.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, well, you know, as I say, I have been working on our sponsors for a long time. It is not something new and I know and I understand the importance of taking care of the sponsors. Without them, without the fans, you are nothing. Sometimes it is hard, but you have to do it. It is part of your work. I think at the end of the day what you have to do is find balance; find balance in your profession, in your life, and where, you know, you have fun, you enjoy what you are doing, and you don't get too much of one thing where you will burn you out in a way that you will stand up performing or you will start hating what you are doing. In the last few years that is what I have been trying to do and I have spoken to our sponsors and they have been helping me and slowing down in some of the appearances, things like that, so I have more time to prepare myself to have time to relax and -- because sometimes you just need breaks. Especially with the season like it is now, it is very, very intense. You race one weekend; then you go testing; then you come back and you come home and basically you are unpacking and packing again. Sometimes you need a little break and recharge the batteries and keep going and get the excitement back into your body.
Q. You seem to be doing pretty good with balancing all of that, good luck.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you.
Q. I want to get back to the testing bit there. Just want to get your feelings on the new testing rules and how, as a driver, how that affects you and your feeling on that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think it is fantastic. I have been pushing for this for a long time and I think everybody applauds for this decision. It is not -- it is the best thing that has ever happened, not just for us, I mean, our mechanics, our people on the team, they need to have their balance like I was talking also in their lives. Basically right now they have no lives, and pretty soon if we are not taking care of that, we are going to lose our people. It will be difficult to find people that would want to race with us because it is very intense, very -- it is just too much. So I think that was the right decision to do and I applaud Bobby for that decision and the board. That will give more time and more quality life to all our CART community; not just the mechanics but everybody involved in it, officials, drivers, families, everybody. I think at the end of the day, it is the same for everybody, so there is not an advantage or disadvantage. We don't need to be at this level that we are, we don't need to be on the track everyday. If we go on Friday and test for four hours, whatever, same for everybody, it is fine for us. The testing off-season is good. We just have to make sure that there is no loopholes. And everything is done in a fair way for everybody. But I think it is fantastic and I think if we even create more races in the future, we have to keep decreasing the testing. I think CART is in the same mind and I am very happy about that.
Q. You talked about the invasion of Mexican drivers coming down the road. Is there anything that can be done such as like the driver development program they have in Canada to help promote the Mexican drivers?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, there is something -- there is now four, five drivers in Indy Lights that they are coming from there. But I think the important thing is that some of them, they have made the jump too quickly and I mean, they went from, you know, small series in Mexico from other parts, and they went into Indy Lights which was a little bit too much. We need to -- I think in America we have great series like Formula Ford 2000 and all things like that that they can follow those steps before they even jump to Indy Lights. I remember when I was in Europe driving for Motor Ford 1600 people used to say you are spending too much time in this series, all that. I think most important thing, every time I made the step to a bigger series, you know, step up, I was always competitive. The problems sometimes when you go up into a series, you don't perform, it is very hard to keep your name and keep your momentum going so sometimes it is good to stay in lower series; once you win them, go to the next level; that way you can get to the top. That is what I am trying to help some of these Mexican drivers that they are coming along. In Mexico we have some series, after, that as I say, they can follow these steps in Formula 2000, things like that. America is doing it now, and trying to build up some American talent in that respect. And I think pretty soon we will see not just Mexican, but a lot of American talent coming up from lower series that they have in America right now.
Q. What is your project in the future and I hear that you have good feelings about new drivers in Mexico and I just want to know what are you planning to do after this race in Vancouver?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, as I say, after a couple of weeks away from deciding what I am doing in the future, staying with Patrick, being on other team or building my own team. After Vancouver we have to keep focusing on the next few races which is we have five left which is Laguna Seca and you know it is a very intense year. We have to keep focus as we have been doing it. I am trying to get, as I say, close to, as much as I can, close to the Mexican drivers and try to guide them in the right way and there is a lot of things going. But at the same time, we can't forget about our Championship that we are driving right now and all the things outside that we have to make sure they don't detract me from my main objective this year which is try to win the Championship.
Q. I wonder if you could comment about CART's mandating the use of the Hansford device and if you have had a chance to try it out yet?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think it is good. There is a lot of more testing that has to be done, especially for road course. I haven't -- I have practiced with it at the beginning of the year. There is some drivers that they are racing with it now like Michael and Christian and things like that. I think it is a good decision and anything that goes in making safety better is a good thing. As I say, Michael has suggested that they have to be more testing or more maybe modification to the device to make it more comfortable. What happens is that for road course sometime it caughts your breathing, it caughts a little bit your movements and it a little bit con (inaudible) -- in the way you can be also bad in that respect. So they are trying to make some changes, some modifications, where we can use them in a road course in the same manner we can use them in -- on the ovals without affecting our driving and our mobility in the cockpit.
T.E. McHALE: We will wrap it up for the afternoon. Adrian, thanks for being with us this afternoon. Best of luck in the Molson Indy Vancouver this weekend and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much, I hope to see you guys all in Vancouver.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you who joined us this afternoon. Have a good week and we will talk to you next week.
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