FONTANA, California Adrian Fernandez secured his third victory of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season today in the Toyota Indy 400 on the 2-mile California Speedway oval. Prevailing in a one-lap shootout over new IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, the Mexican veteran used superior chassis dynamics of his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone challenger to post a breathtaking 0.0183-second advantage in the penultimate race of the 16-event 2004 IndyCar Series season, the seventh-closest finish in series history. It was Fernandez’ second consecutive win and his third in the last five races.
“The Panoz G Force had a little less drag when it counted,” noted Fernandez Racing team co-owner Tom Anderson. “We had problems learning the chassis at the start of the year, but the intensity generated by Adrian [as both co-owner and driver] forced us to understand the relationship between changes we made to the Panoz G Force and the affects they had. You’ve got to understand the relationship between those changes and, with these cars, the ride height, temperature changes and so many other factors are sensitive,” the longtime mechanic, crew chief, team manager and owner revealed.
Battling with Kanaan over the final 15-20 laps of the 200-lap contest, Fernandez stated, “I knew I had a stronger car. Tony respected my line and it was great. It was so close!”
Buddy Rice finished fifth with the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda after running near the top of the charts much of the afternoon, retaining third place points. “I don’t think we had the speed of a couple of the cars out there, but the Panoz G Force was pretty good today. When you have a one- or two-lap shootout, people come out of nowhere. We just missed a little bit on the setup for today, but overall, the weather didn’t heat up like we’d anticipated and that hurt us,” the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner noted.
Driving the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota that is painted bright pink for these final two races of the season – in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month – Scott Dixon took eighth place in the race, which ran under green from lap 14 to 173. “It was nice to start on the front row,” Dixon said, “but we may have concentrated on qualifying a bit much and should have put more effort on race setup.” Teammate Darren Manning, who crashed on his second qualifying lap, was not cleared to start the race.
The IndyCar Series finale takes place on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval October 17th. Panoz G Force drivers have won six of the 15 races held thus far, despite the fact that the sole IndyCar Series chassis designed and built in the United States is used by only seven of 22 regular series entrants.