Fernandez Still Celebrating
August 18, 2004 | 9:07 A.M. EST
The victory was his first in the IRL IndyCar Series and clinched the manufacturer’s title for Honda. Another highlight was the performance of rookie teammate Kosuke Matsuura, driver of the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone entry that Fernandez Racing fields with former Japanese racer Aguri Suzuki.
Matsuura, who claimed the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award at the Indianapolis 500 and leads the race for the season-long Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award, finished a season-best fourth at Kentucky.
“I am very happy with our fourth-place finish, and very happy for Adrian with his win today,” Matsuura said. “Adrian helped me a lot for the race. We were talking at the (IRL) autograph session (Aug. 14), and he gave me some good advice and also some things to think about with the car. We decided to change the setup on my car to match his. The first 150 laps were only OK, but we were able to charge to the front at the end.”
Matsuura started 10th in the race but found himself in a fight for 12th place following his first pit stop. By Lap 140, the 24-year-old from Aichi, Japan, was running seventh. Though his final pit stop dropped him out of the top 10, Matsuura climbed to eighth for the final 35-lap green flag run.
“Today is the day that I believe Kosuke Matsuura grew up,” said Fernandez Racing co-owner Tom Anderson, who serves as managing director of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. “He had an opportunity to throw it all away a couple of times and he didn’t. He waited. He was patient.
“In the middle of the race, we were quite a ways back and needed to be patient. We had a great stop on his last pit stop, and he drove a very, very mature and professional race. To me, this is probably the turning point for Kosuke. It was a tremendous job that he did today. I am really pleased on that front.”
Matsuura’s late charge to the front included several three-wide moves for second place with Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice. The performance helped seal the win for Fernandez, who was keeping tabs on his teammate’s charge up to fourth in his mirrors.
“Kosuke is one of the best drivers we have had, and he's a great character, great guy to work with,” Fernandez said. “He just obviously lacks experience, but he's catching up very quickly and he is starting to understand why we do things sometimes the way we do and why you need to use your head sometimes and why you need to be patient sometimes and things like that. He's starting to understand. For him to finish fourth today and push the way he was pushing, he was making me very happy.”