R: You’re the only owner/driver that’s currently active on the CART circuit. What are the challenges of being in this position?
Adrian Fernandez: It is a very challenging position to be in. It’s very difficult to get started as both an owner and a driver, and then I have to try and manage my time and my thoughts so that my driving is not distracted and my performance is not compromised.
R: As an owner/driver, do you see yourself transitioning away from driving responsibilities and focusing more on the management and ownership issues?
AF: I put most of my energy into driving the car and only oversee the management of the team right now. Things are so busy. For future drivers, I have my eye on a few of the younger Mexican drivers, but I’m so busy I don’t have much time to do any cultivating.
R: With the CART/IRL split, is it more difficult to obtain sponsorship? What effect do you think the split has had on the sport?
AF: Economics is always an issue, and sponsorship is very valuable because it can be hard to obtain. The split has probably hurt the sport. We all have less television coverage and that is what helps keep people interested in the sport and interest drives sponsors.
R: Who are your primary adversaries on the track?
AF: There are a lot of great drivers out there today. Guys like Jourdain, Sebastian, Carpentier, Tracy, Dominguez – they all are great drivers and are very competitive. I think things are much more competitive today than they were when I started racing CART in 1993.
R: We’ve followed your team this weekend and it’s been really interesting. Tell us a little about your weekend – what do you like best about a race weekend?
AF: I like the entire event except for all of the headaches that come with being so busy. This weekend my IRL team is in another city, so I get updates from them. Then I have to concern myself with our efforts here. My favorite thing is driving the car- it’s amazing, and Laguna Seca is an incredible track. This weekend wasn’t so good though. Our two pit stops killed our chances because it’s hard to pass on this track.
R: How critical is it to get a good qualifying position? When you’re practicing, are you focusing on qualification efforts or race strategy?
AF: Both. At a track like this, qualifying is so very important because passing opportunities are very rare. When we practice, we focus on both racing and qualifying. Making a change for the sake of qualifying might affect the racing set-up.
R: Tell us about some of your off track experiences. Are you a car guy away from the track? What types of cars catch your eye today, and what do you look for in a car?
AF: I love cars. I LOVE cars. But, because of my job, I don’t have much time to enjoy them. I currently have a Ferrari 260 Spyder, a Mercedes SL55 and an Acura MDX – I really enjoy driving them. Cars that catch my eye are the Enzo, but everyone says that. For regular cars, I think the MINI Cooper is a pretty cool little car. I am attracted to a good looking car but it also has to have performance.
R: Congratulations on your recent engagement. I trust that your fiancee is a racing fan?
AF: Actually, no. She doesn’t really like racing. We met on the set of the Sylvester Stallone movie “Driven.”
R: In closing, what tracks and events are your favorites? Are there any that you really look forward to?
AF: The Mexico race is very special to me and the event is the best. It’s almost overwhelming because of the tremendous fan support. Australia is an event I really enjoy because the country is very fun to visit. For tracks, I think I like Road America the best – it’s long, challenging and has a lot of turns and fast straights.
R: Adrian, thank you for letting us join you this weekend and we wish you lots of luck for the rest of the season.
AF: Thanks guys, it was a pleasure to have you here.
Adrian Fernandez is the team owner and driver of the #51 Fernandez Racing Tecate / Quaker State / Telmex Lola Ford Champ car. Born in Mexico, the forty-year-old driver currently resides in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He is in his eleventh year of CART racing and has 7 victories to his name, with nineteen podium finishes. He is an avid fitness enthusiast, who works out an average of three-and-a-half hours per day, and maintains a very strict diet.
The following weekend, at the G.I. Joe’s 200 race on June 22, 2003, Team Fernandez earned their place in history- Adrian won the race, an accomplishment that few have ever achieved while serving as an owner and driver. It was also Team Fernandez’ first victory as a team.