CART Media Conference
February 26, 2001
T.E. McHALE: We're joined by Roberto Moreno's former Patrick Racing teammate, Adrian Fernandez. Good afternoon, Adrian, thanks for being with us today.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much.
T.E. McHALE: Adrian is entering his ninth season in the FedEx Championship Series. This year he embarks on a new venture as he forms a new team, Fernandez Racing, in partnership with Tom Anderson, the former managing director at Target Chip Ganassi racing. Adrian will team with second-year Japanese driver Shinji Nakano to form a two-car entry. The 2000 FedEx Championship Series season was the best of his Adrian's FedEx Championship Series career. He earned victories at Brazil and Australia to become the only CART driver to have scored victories in five different countries. He scored championship points in a series high 17 of 20 starts, including the final 13 in a row, and he led the series in both laps completed with 2601 of a possible 2830 and miles completed with 4357.172 of a possible 4779.696. Adrian finished second in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series championship with 158 points. We can now open it up to questions for Adrian.
Q. The biggest question I think is how is it for your first race, especially that it's in Mexico, and you are such a huge star there? There's a lot of pressure as far as just that. Also with the new team and you in an ownership role, what is your game plan as far as going into Mexico?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Obviously there's a lot of pressure in that respect, you know, the first race in our country that we have been waiting for a long time, the first race of the season and, you know, coming from a good strong finish last year, second in the championship. But, you know, it's something that you have to take as it comes, and you just have to try to avoid any distraction and avoid any pressure of that type. The team is doing really well at the moment, and that's giving me confidence that I will come to that race like any other race and try to do my best. You know, as long as I do my best that weekend, as a team, not just with me but also with Shinji, I will feel satisfied. It will be a very special moment. It will be a lot of fans, a lot of people trying to support us. You know, that will be quite an experience.
Q. Just a question, with the Rio race sort of going by the boards, there now is sort of a gap between Monterey and Long Beach. I'm just wondering, from your standpoint as a driver and also as a team owner who now has a particular eye on the cost as well as everything else, if you were king for a day, what would you do with that time between Monterey and Long Beach?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, right now for us it really works well because we need the time. As you know, we're building everything from zero. There is a lot of areas that we just didn't have enough time to finish, like trailers and pit equipment in some areas and things like that. So that time is going to be very, very important and very valuable for our team. We're going to really just get everything up to speed where we're going to make the big gain from Mexico to Long Beach. That month is going to be very important. That drop of Rio really benefit the team.
Q. Would there be time or would it work to maybe reopen a small window for testing or would you be against that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I'd be against it. I mean, everybody has done their testing. I think, you know, everybody has been given the same opportunity. I don't think it should be open. I think it should stay the same way. That shouldn't change anything for anybody. You know, the rule is the rule. You know, by giving anybody more testing, is not going to do any better thing for anybody. So I think it's good the way it is.
Q. Have you announced the primary sponsor for Shinji's car yet? If not, when are you going to do that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We should do it hopefully before Mexico. We haven't done that.
Q. Where will that announcement take place? Will it take place down in Mexico?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I would think so. Right now we're just trying to see exactly the timing of the sponsor. As soon as we know, you know, we will have to see if it's better to do it before or maybe in Mexico. So right now, to be honest, we don't know.
Q. In the past, Shinji has had mediocre results.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah.
Q. Now that you've had a chance to test with him, do you think he's going to make a strong teammate? Is he going to give you a run for your money?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think Shinji is going to surprise a lot of people this year. That's my feel. He's been impressing the team in all areas. He's picking up and learning very quickly and I'm very, very pleased with the progress we've done with him. He's very hungry. He's very quick. He's learning fast. You know, as I say, I think Shinji is going to open some eyes this year.
Q. Do you see any little rivalry going on between Shinji, who is in a Honda, and Takagi, who is going to be in a Toyota, especially for the Japan race? A little competition there?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I would think so. I mean, it's always -- I mean, that's an obvious thing. That's always going to be a thing about trying to be the best in your country, the best in your team. As long as it's a nice and healthy competition, it's always good.
Q. So rate how it is, how it's been as an owner/driver, 1 being incredibly easy and 5 being incredibly tough?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It's a bit in the middle. It hasn't been that difficult because we have -- I always say that the most difficult part, which is the financial support, is always the difficult part to get. We have that in place a long time ago. We have it in place for quite a few years in the future. So that part is done. Basically here also having as a partner Tom Anderson, that's a big, big part of the situation that is already solved. He has a lot of experience, and that part, you know, it's been pretty good to work with. I mean, Tom and I, we've been able to work really well together and give our -- distribute the right responsibilities to each other. That has worked really well. The most difficult part has been just the time to bring a team from zero to where we are now to where we have I think now 35, 36 people. You know, two days ago we started with pit stops, started to get pit equipment. There's some areas that we don't have yet ready like the pit tanks and the pit equipment is not going to be (inaudible) a hundred percent. It's just been the time. Apart from that, we really haven't had any surprises. Actually the surprises that I have had have been just very rewarding. The atmosphere on the team is extremely, extremely good. I'm very, very motivated from what I've seen building on the team. It's exciting because it's something that I've been interacting with them and I just feel what I'm doing is the right thing for the team. It's a very natural way of doing things for me with the team, which is nothing apart from the (inaudible) of doing business for myself. It's something I have been concentrating more and was more work for me at the beginning, was looking into the new design of the car, uniforms, putting everybody together with the sponsors and the contacts and knowing who is who, things like that. But that big load of work really has now diminished for myself, so I don't have that much load. I've been just concentrating really hard on my fitness, working also with Shinji and things like that. It's going really well.
Q. How would you characterize your attitude now knowing that you've got such a good relationship with the owner of the team, that you know you're going to be getting the best of equipment all the time?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Right, well that's important. It's good to know that you have a team that is going to give you the hundred percent effort. If there is situations, you can make things change maybe quicker than has happened in the past. Also is good to know that we're going to give the same opportunity to Shinji, not less, not more, just the same opportunity. It's all in our interests to make Shinji a winner. And with that, you know, it would be stupid from our side to give him inferior equipment. So to be honest, it's a part that I never expected to feel like this, and it's very exciting.
Q. How is the swelling on the left wrist? Has it gone down? Do you have any idea how it happened?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: No. Actually I went to the doctor this morning and I will tell you exactly what it's called, what I have. They call it an intersection syndrome. It's the crossover. They call it like -- sometimes call it crossover tendonitis. There's two nerves and muscles that for some reason, is very strange because, you know, I did it by driving. I haven't done anything, haven't hit myself, I just did it by driving, which is very strange. The first day I felt a little sore. You know, there's a very tight corner and we have a very long steering arm. The steering was very long so I was crossing my arms too much. Somehow I damage it. You know, I hurt it while driving. So now I'm just in the process of healing.
Q. Does that mean you're not going to be testing at Phoenix?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I'm going to jump in the car tomorrow and I'll see. (Inaudible) to the left, and it's very easy, I'm going to see how it works on my arm. As soon as I finish with you guys, I'm going to call (inaudible) and find out what would be -- he has a lot of experience in this, to get his opinion if I should do something on the testing side or not, or just the pit stops and things like that, just have the rest of the days from now to Mexico for the healing process. It's a little bit unfortunate, but I should be fine for Mexico. It may be a little pain there, but it's weird, you know, never had something like this happen to me.
Q. You did fracture your right wrist --
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, the right wrist, but this is my left wrist.
Q. -- a long time ago.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Two years ago. That's perfect now. This is my left wrist. Third day I couldn't really drive hard. I was just driving, working for Honda, things like that, pit stops. Shinji concentrated on speed and some other things. The inflammation is a lot less than what it was two days ago, so I'm encouraged that it's going to be better.
Q. Have you seen the course in Mexico? What are your impressions of it? How has the response been so far? I know ticket sales have been very good.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes. I think the track is not going to be as fast as we would like as the drivers. But it's a pretty nice track. It has a lot of different areas, I think opportunities for passing. To be honest, a lot of things that I may tell you now may change as soon as I jump on the racetrack because you just never know until you jump on the race car. Everything changes, even if you're in a rental car. But it has a lot of continued turns, a few tight corners, a few fast corners. It's very wide, which is a good characteristic of the track. So I think it's going to be a good track for racing. Hopefully it will provide also the opportunities of passing that we all want. For my side, in terms of what do I expect on Mexico for that weekend, I'm expecting a huge crowd and a lot of people trying to get our autograph (laughter). It will be a busy weekend, very busy. I will try to enjoy the moment every time.
T.E. McHALE: We will thank Adrian Fernandez of Fernandez Racing for joining us this afternoon. Thanks for being with us and best of luck in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series championship and your first year as an owner/driver.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much. Same to you guys.
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