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INDYU.S.A.August 15, 2004
IRL IndyCar Series Round 11
Kentucky Speedway, Sparta

Fernandez Finds Victory Circle in Kentucky,
Honda Clinches 2004 IRL Manufacturers’ Championship

Taking control over the final 50 laps, Adrian Fernandez held off a pack of fellow Honda-powered competitors to claim his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series victory Sunday at the Belterra Casino Indy 300. The win also clinched Honda’s first IRL Manufacturers’ Championship in the company’s second year of IndyCar competition.



Adrian Fernandez


Adrian Fernandez & Buddy Rice

Starting fourth in his first event at Kentucky Speedway, Fernandez ran in the lead pack until the second round of pit stops, when a jammed wheel gun led to a long pit stop and dropped him to 10th as the 200-lap race reached its mid-point. Working his way up to sixth after the last round of pit stops, the Mexican made a bold move to the front of the field on a Lap 148 restart, passing Buddy Rice for the lead on Lap 152 and he was never again headed despite a frantic final 10 laps when both Rice and Dan Wheldon challenged Fernandez.

It was the tenth consecutive IndyCar victory this season by a Honda-powered driver and the best combined result for the company since the Indianapolis 500, when Honda drivers also finished first through seventh. Fernandez is the fifth Honda driver to post an IRL victory this season.

Indianapolis 500 winner Rice finished second, trailing by less than six hundredths of a second at the checkered, followed by Twin Ring Motegi and Richmond winner Dan Wheldon. Rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura, making his own late charge to the front, finished fourth for his best result to date and the best ever IndyCar Series finish for a Japanese driver.

Already a three-time winner this year, Tony Kanaan led 126 laps today, but fell slightly off the pace with an undetermined problem in the closing laps. But the Andretti Green Racing driver hung on to finish fifth, and maintains a 50-point lead in the drivers’ championship standings over Rice.

Milwaukee race winner Dario Franchitti was another Honda driver to run among the leaders throughout the race, crossing the finish line in sixth, just ahead of Rahal Letterman Racing’s Vitor Meira, who made it a clean sweep of the top seven positions for Honda. Bryan Herta survived a refueling problem during his final pit stop to finish ninth, with rookie Mark Taylor 19th for Access Motorsports.


Kosuke Matsura & Dario Franchitti


Dan Wheldon & Bryan Herta


Adrian Fernandez (#5 Telmex/Quaker State Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, first IRL victory, first IndyCar victory for a Mexican driver:
"Right from the start of the race, I didn't want to hold back and Tony [Kanaan] was charging hard. We have the same Honda engine, and Honda has given us a fantastic engine. I knew he was going to be strong; he has been strong all year. At that point, I didn't want to just keep burning fuel, so we settled a little bit. Unfortunately, we had a bad pit stop when an air gun broke and we lost a lot of positions. The key moment was at 150 laps, when we had the last pit stop under yellow, I think I was in sixth place. I knew I had to be very strong, very aggressive to get to the front, and that's what I did. I charged very hard in Turn 2, we were four-high or something like that. I was just hoping my car would stay there. There was a big bump there, but the car held on and I never lifted and managed to pass everybody. Buddy [Rice] was very strong. But my car was so well-balanced the last few laps that I managed to stay on the inside and stay to the end. I didn't know how strong Buddy was going to be in the final laps, but I'll tell you what, I was not going to give him any space at all. I wanted to beat all the other Hondas, because Honda has been the best of the year, and I'm so glad to have one of them and to help them clinch the Manufacturer's Championship this weekend."

"When you know your competitor has as good of an engine as you, you know you have to beat them, because if you finish behind all of them, you know you're not doing a good job. So we proved the team is getting better and better, and we beat the best of the best, and that feels great. Especially with Kosuke [Matsuura] finishing fourth, that was fantastic for him. Kosuke is one of the best drivers we have had, and he's a great character. He just lacks experience, but he's catching up very quickly and he is starting to understand why we do things sometimes the way we do and why you need to use your head sometimes and why you need to be patient sometimes and things like that. For him to finish fourth today and push the way he was pushing, I could see in the mirror and he was making me very happy."

Robert Clarke (vice president and general manager, Honda Performance Development):
"It has been a fantastic year for Honda in the IRL. Although dominating results like today’s might make it seem otherwise, this has been a highly challenging year for HPD, with programs for the ‘old’ 3.5-liter engine at the start of the season, the utilization of the new 3.0-liter engine starting at Indianapolis, and the construction of HPD’s new facility in California all taking place in the same time frame. This achievement is a tribute to the tremendous hard work and dedication of all our associates at HPD, our teams and drivers, and our technical partners."

Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 4th:
"It was a good day for us. We made some changes before the race and that helped the car. The Fernandez group did an excellent job. I’m very happy that Honda clinched the Manufacturers Championship. Adrian was on the bottom line at the end of the race and that was the ideal spot. It was difficult to get around him. With the lighter banking, you can’t get an outside run on someone, like, say, at Texas. But overall, we gain some points on Tony [Kanaan] and we’ll have a good car at Pikes Peak next week. At the start of the race, we had to wait and see how things were going to play out. Fernandez us didn’t surprise with his pass. He was strong all day and that team has the same package as ours – Honda and G Force. It was tight on fuel for everyone and we had to wait to make any moves until we had a full fuel mixture. I got squeezed a little when I tried to go three wide and fell back. That was the only time I tried that move. I know there were other guys that tried it too and it didn’t work for them. Overall, we’ll keep running up front and gaining points. We have five more races to play out the championship and we’ll see what is there at the final race at Texas. Today was a good race for us. This track is much smoother that last year and I think that is why you saw really good racing today."

Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 3rd:
"It’s a good result for us. I’m slightly disappointed because I lost some ground on Buddy [Rice] for the championship, but I gained a little on Tony [Kanaan]. Now we’ll have to refocus our efforts and dig down deep in the next five races. My car was good today, particularly on restarts. But Adrian [Fernandez] and Buddy were both very strong all day. In the last few laps we’d all fan out, but no one could gain any ground on anyone else. They would hold down the low side and it was very, very difficult to get around on the high line. It was exciting, though. I certainly was excited in the middle of it all!"

Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/ARTA Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 4th, best ever result for a Japanese driver in IndyCar racing:
"I’m very happy with our fourth place finish, and very happy for Adrian [Fernandez] with his win today. Adrian helped me a lot for the race. We were talking at the [IRL] autograph session last night, and he gave me some good advice and also some things to think about with the car. We decided to change the setup on my car to match his. The first 150 laps were only ‘okay’, but I worked with the weight-jacker and we were able to improve the car for the end. I want to say ‘thanks’ to Adrian and the whole team, and congratulations to Honda for the Manufacturers’ Championship."

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 5th, continues to lead the drivers’ championship:
"Something happened. We lost a lot of speed for some reason after the last 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, But I just got behind those other guys but couldn't catch them. 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."

Vitor Meira (#17 Centrix Financial Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 7th:
"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 had a little too much mechanical grip today. I thought for a while I could run with Buddy 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 Manufacturers 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 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."

IRL IndyCar Series Round 11
Kentucky Speedway, Sparta


line
 
1 Adrian Fernandez (Fernandez Racing)
2 Buddy Rice (Rahal Letterman Racing)
3 Dan Wheldon (Andretti Green Racing)
4 Kosuke Matsura (Super Aguri Fernandez)
5 Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green Racing)
6 Dario Franchitti (Andretti Green Racing)
7 Vitor Meira (Rahal Letterman Racing)
8 Ed Carpenter (Cheever Indy Racing)
9 Bryan Herta (Andretti Green Racing)
10 Darren Manning (Target Chip Ganassi)
11 Alex Barron (Cheever Indy Racing)
12 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)
19 Mark Taylor (Access Motorsports)



Adrian Fernandez
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