Press Snoop: Funny Fernandez
12 November 2005
Rookie CARL EDWARDS is on pole for Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Busch Series Arizona 200 Race at Phoenix International Raceway with a lap of 27.037/133.151 mph. This didn't break the record of 26.902/133.819 mph set by KYLE BUSCH last fall. This was Edwards' fourth pole in 35 Busch starts.
On the outside front row will be Rookie DENNY HAMLIN. Edwards said "I've got to hand it to Denny Hamlin. That was the hardest lap that I've driven in qualifying; that was wild. I can't believe that was the pole. It's slick out there, but it was fun. If anybody runs faster, they can have it."
Third through fifth are REGAN SMITH, current points leader and title contender MARTIN TRUEX and Rookie REED SORENSON.
Edwards is a slim four points ahead of Sorenson in the Raybestos Rookie Championship chase. Edwards is running his first full Cup season, but is ineligible for Rookie status as he had too many Cup starts last season.
Edwards said it hasn't been a problem racing full time in both Busch and the Nextel Cup Series, where he is leading the Rookie standings. "It doesn't make me more tired. It teaches me to pace myself. I sat up on the hill and watched the Truck race last night, and it was over, poof, just like that." Edwards plans to again run both Busch and Cup next season with Roush.
MARTIN TRUEX could secure a back to back Busch Championship this race, depending on how the race goes for closest rival, CLINT BOWYER, who starts thirty-second. The two have both topped the $1 million mark in earnings, first time this has happened to two Busch Rookies.
Truex is cleaning up in Busch this season. He won the most races-six; has earned the most money - $1,513,498; led the most laps and miles-705 laps and 999.63 miles; has the most top-five finishes-15; and led the most races-19.
Seven drivers in the Busch field are Double Duty Drivers. There are the usual Buschwhackers GREG BIFFLE, Edwards, KEVIN HARVICK MATT KENSETH, BOBBY LABONTE, KEVIN LEPAGE, JAMIE McMURRAY and JOHNNY SAUTER. The top Cup driver was Rookie Edwards. Labonte failed to make the field.
Racing Friday in the Craftsman Truck Series Chevy Silverado 150 Race were ERIN CROCKER, and runner-up RON HORNADAY Jr. Both are making their last Busch race for the season. Crocker starts thirteenth and Hornaday twelfth.
Besides Labonte, those not qualifying were CHARLIE BRADBERRY and ERIC McCLURE.
For the third time, Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers' Championship in all three NASCAR top tier series. This year it was Nextel Cup first with JEFF GORDON's win, Trucks with KYLE BUSCH'S victory and last week in Busch, it was Harvick who clinched it for the red bow tie. The other two Chevy sweep years were 1996 and 1998.
Unlike the seemingly forced or stage jocularity exhibited by TONY STEWART Friday afternoon, the funny demeanour and humour of ADRIAN FERNANDEZ of Mexico City comes across as genuine. He's racing No.5 Lowe's Chevrolet for RICK HENDRICK in selected Busch races this season.
Fernandez is confident and comfortable coming into the PIR race, and is wants a solid finish. He tested here last week, and thinks he's getting better. Fernandez was nineteenth and twenty-seventh in the two Friday practice sessions, and Saturday he qualified sixteenth out of 46 drivers. Another reason the popular Mexican driver enjoys racing at PIR - he lives here.
Phoenix is a track Fernandez has driven since 1992 in the now defunct Indy Lights Series. He's also raced open wheel CART and IRL cars on the one-mile paved oval.
Fernandez has really enjoyed being in the Busch Series. "It's been difficult but we knew it would be. The competition in NASCAR is amazing. Just a few tenths of a second separate the guys in the front from the guys in the back." He knows he has "to have the patience to go through the process." He added, with a twinkle, "I've set a new record in Busch - I've never hit the wall so many times in such a short time."
The other drivers have been good to Fernandez, and when there have been on track situations, they have come to him and talked, apologised or whatever. He said they respect him for what he's done.
Fernandez isn't sure what he will be doing next year but he loves Rick (Hendrick) and gets along well with Lowes as his sponsor. "We all want to work together."
Fernandez brought TOM ANDERSON with him to the race. Anderson is co-owner and Managing Director of the team he and Fernandez own and run in Indy Racing League. Former F1 driver, AGURI SUZUKI, has been involved with the Fernandez team, running Japanese driver, KOSUKE MATSUURA. Fernandez isn't quite sure what will happen with Suzuki in IRL next season as Suzuki is planning to return to F1 with Honda.
Fernandez gets along well with his Hendrick teammate, JIMMIE JOHNSON, who has been very helpful and a good friend. Johnson has been teaching Fernandez how to get into the car. You had to be there. There's no way to describe how funny it is to hear Fernandez detailing Johnson's efforts to teach Fernandez to dress inside the car.
Fernandez also has the good-natured support and teasing of Champ Car driver, PAUL TRACY, who is here with Fernandez this weekend, checking out NASCAR.
Fernandez brings one thing with him from his open wheel racing - he wears a Nomex head sock under his helmet, something not done by stock car drivers.
Another Mexican driver competing in the Saturday Busch race is CARLOS CONTRERAS, who will start forty-second. He is running selected Busch races this year.
Fernandez said "The Mexican fans are just learning about NASCAR. The Mexico City race was such a huge success. I think you will see more and more Mexican fans take an interest in NASCAR in the coming years, especially if you see Mexican drivers getting involved. You are starting to see NASCAR everywhere."