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Lowe's Fernandez Racing Prepares to Challenge at St. Petersburg

The American Le Mans Series heads to St. Petersburg, Fla., this week for the first of two temporary street course events on the 2009 schedule – the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. The downtown waterfront circuit is known for being as challenging as it is scenic, as Lowe’s Fernandez Racing drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz can attest. Both have been hindered in the final results by on-track incidents the past two years.

Momentum in the team runs high after a class victory and fourth-place overall result in the Twelve Hours of Sebring two weeks ago. It was the third consecutive year that the #15 Lowe’s Acura machine on Michelin tires had made it the to 12-hour mark, a testament to the preparation and pit work by the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing squad and the durability of its Acura package.

Fernandez and Diaz will move from a test of endurance to a full-out sprint race when official practice begins this Friday. The pair last contested the tight confines of a temporary street circuit in August of last year, finishing fourth in class and sixth overall on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park

Round Two of ALMS competition highlights a weekend of racing action as the IndyCar Series opens its season on Sunday with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Race Notes:
•Circuit – 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course
•Saturday’s race will last 1 hour and 55 minutes
•A driver may not drive more than 1 hour and 20 minutes total in the race

Of Note:
•Lowe’s Fernandez Racing enters its third season of ALMS competition in 2009
•Fernandez and Diaz scored their first career ALMS class win two weeks ago in the season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring, and finished fourth overall
•In two career ALMS starts at St. Petersburg, Fernandez and Diaz recorded their best results in 2007 with a fourth-place class finish and sixth-place overall result
•Last year, the pair finished seventh in class after rebounding from an incident with a P1 entry which caused Fernandez to pit for repairs and finish three laps down
•Fernandez and Diaz recorded their best starting position at St. Petersburg in 2007, starting third in class and fourth overall
•To date, their 2007 fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg coupled with a fourth-place class finish at Detroit are their best results on a temporary street circuit
•In 24 career ALMS starts to date, Fernandez and Diaz have claimed six podium finishes and 11 top-five results

Fernandez on the challenges at St. Petersburg: “First of all, I have to say that I always look forward to this event. It is a great setting for a race and I really enjoy the circuit. Unfortunately, the two years we have raced at St. Petersburg have been frustrating in terms of results. The first year, Luis was leading when we were penalized for avoidable contact with another car that was several laps down. Last year we were running in the top five when I was hit from behind by a P1 car. The track is tight but fast as well and very challenging. When you are running a sprint race like this, traffic is always a factor. That will be the biggest challenge.”

Diaz on expectations for the weekend:  “We struggled a little bit last year with the grip level of the car at St. Petersburg and also at Long Beach, but we found a good direction for the other street race at Detroit. Having a year’s experience with this car is a definite advantage. We have two practice sessions, qualifying and then the race so there is not much time and you need to roll out with a good set-up. We will be ready. We are expecting some strong competition from the Mazdas. I really like the street circuits and we are carrying a lot of momentum from Sebring. I am looking forward to a good run on Saturday.”


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