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Fernandez Goes to IRL

March 12, 2004|Mike Kupper

Adrian Fernandez, who earlier in the week had been one of the featured drivers at the "Champ Car Spring Premiere" in Long Beach, announced Thursday that he was leaving the Champ Car World Series and moving his open-wheel racing team to the Indy Racing League.

The Mexican owner-driver will make his debut in the second race of the IRL season, the Indy 200 Copper World Classic in Phoenix on March 21, driving a Honda-powered Panoz G Force. The IRL opened its season Feb. 29.

At Long Beach, Fernandez reported that his longtime sponsor, Tecate beer, had scaled back its support of the team. Friday, he said that his IRL sponsors would be Quaker State, Telmex, Tecate and a new backer, Aceros Vilag.

"Obviously this is a big move for us, particularly at this late stage," Fernandez said. "We have reviewed a lot of things the past few days, and had to take a hard look at what we know ... to determine what is best for our sponsors and the future of Fernandez Racing.... It is an understatement to say we have a lot of work to do in the next 11 days.

"Personally, it is never easy to make a decision like this, particularly when you factor in the friendships and relationships that have developed over many years."

Fernandez has been a CART/Champ Car regular since 1994 and has won eight races. He, along with champion Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira, Jimmy Vasser and Patrick Carpentier, were among the few "household name" drivers in the Champ Car series. He won one race and finished eighth in the Champ Car World Series standings last season.

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