Fernandez piles pressure on de Ferran

Gil de Ferran and Adrian Fernandez will fight for the CART Championship Series title in the season finale at Fontana in two weeks time after the Mexican's victory in the Honda Indy 300 took him to within five points of de Ferran's series leading tally

Fernandez piles pressure on de Ferran

Paul Tracy and Kenny Brack can also still win the championship, but are both 19 points behind de Ferran with only 22 available in the 500-mile superspeedway race that will decide the identity of this year's champion.

Fernandez was a long-shot coming into this race, although his consistent performances and some excellent fuel strategies from Patrick Racing having kept the Mexican in the hunt all season. He won at Fontana last year and is normally very quick on the superspeedways, so will be hard to beat in the decider.

"It's a fantastic feeling," said Fernandez as he celebrated his second win of the year. "This team never gives up. We had a tough weekend as we couldn't get a handle on the car for qualifying. It was better in the warm-up and then basically we tried to stay clean and not make any mistakes today."

He is also feeling suitably confident about going into the season finale with a genuine shot at the title for the first time in his CART career.

"I think we know how to race well at Fontana and we're looking pretty good," he added.

Ironically Fernandez is set to leave the Patrick Racing team after Fontana whatever the result. He is set to announce that he is joining forces with Ganassi team manager Tom Anderson to form a Mexican-funded, Honda-powered team with Shinji Nakano in the second car.

De Ferran could have clinched the title by outscoring his main rivals today, but instead went home with no points after colliding with Juan Montoya on the opening lap. Having seen his 19-point lead shrink to an advantage of just five, he knows he now has an unexpectedly hard fight on his hands.

"Now we go to Fontana to decide the championship," he said. "Our destiny is not in our hands anymore."

Tracy could easily have been the man leading the title fight to the California venue. After de Ferran's departure, the Canadian built up a huge lead before a throttle problem intervened. Even after pitting for repairs the Team Kool Green driver still looked set for a top five finish only to end his race in the barriers after contact with Oriol Servia.

However, his team boss Barry Green warned Fernandez and de Ferran not to rule Tracy out yet.

"It's a shame what happened today because we could have done with those points," he admitted. "But we're not out of it. It's a 500-mile race and we'll be fast there. It's not over yet."



1 Gil de Ferran Penske 153 points
2 Adrian Fernandez Patrick 148 pts
3 Paul Tracy Green 134 pts
4 Kenny Brack Rahal 134 pts
5 Jimmy Vasser Ganassi 131 pts
6 Roberto Moreno Patrick 131 pts
7 Michael Andretti Newman-Haas 127 pts
8 Helio Castroneves Penske 125 pts
9 Juan Montoya Ganassi 123 pts
10 Cristiano da Matta PPI 112 pts

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