Friday, May 28, 2004

Profile low, speeds high for Fernandez Racing



The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Adrian Fernandez hasn't raced at Indy for the past nine years. Kosuke Matsuura is a rookie.

Maybe that's why nobody is paying attention to their speeds.

The Fernandez Racing teammates have been among the fastest nearly every day since practice began for Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Matsuura has topped the speed chart four times and Fernandez, the team owner, has led it twice.

They were back on top Thursday during the two-hour "Carburetion Day" session - the only time between the end of qualifying and the race in which the cars are allowed on the 2 1/2-mile oval.

"I don't care if they call us favorites, long shots, whatever," Fernandez said. "We're ready to race."

Fernandez will be positioned on the outside of the second row when the green flag drops Sunday, with his teammate right behind him.

Traditionally, Carb Day is strictly for shaking down the 33 cars in the starting lineup, making sure all the bolts are tightened and the hoses are connected.

Still, Matsuura was out front with a fast lap of 219.226 mph, followed by his boss at 218.066.

"It was a very, very good test," the 24-year-old Japanese driver said. "The car is very fast and, for drafting, the car has a very good balance. Everything is perfect."

NASCAR: Going out last of the 52 drivers, Jimmie Johnson edged Ryan Newman for the Nextel Cup's Coca-Cola 600 pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson's lap of 187.052 mph was a track record, besting the mark Newman set earlier.

"The way I got through Turns 1 and 2, I knew the car was really hooked up," Johnson said. "I got a little loose in Turn 3 and had to pause on the gas pedal, and I was a little nervous coming off Turn 4.

"I told the guys, 'Let me know if I've got this thing.' Shortly thereafter, I heard screaming and yelling, so I figured that was good enough."

Newman, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler and rookie Brian Vickers rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth, who won the Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's last week, ended up 37th, and points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 10th.




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