Fernandez to abandon IRL

Hot on the heels of Adrian Fernandez team partner Aguri Suzuki announcing he is off to F1 to run the Honda B team next year comes word that NASCAR wants Adrian Fernandez driving In their series and they want him bad. If true, what will be left of the Fernandez IRL team given they have no sponsorship?

This Winston Salem Journal article says, Adrian Fernandez, a suave, cool, internationally sophisticated multi-lingual racer, with movie-star looks and a Richard Petty-plus personality, didn't expect it to be quite like this. Fernandez, an Indy-car star from Mexico City, signed on with NASCAR, Rick Hendrick and sponsor Lowe's earlier this year to headline NASCAR's new marketing foray into the Hispanic world. Fernandez figured to get a little pub, maybe pick up some more sponsorship for his own Indy Racing League operation, revitalize his career, and have a little fun at this roundy-round stuff in these awkward stock cars. But now he's found himself sucked into the NASCAR vortex. During these next two weeks he'll have to face one of the biggest decisions of his career. Does he really want to jump into NASCAR whole-heartedly, or, at 42 and freshly married, would he rather simply step back and enjoy the richly comfortable world he has created for himself during 24 years as a racer, and one of Mexico's most famous sports figures? NASCAR executives have made it quite clear what they want: "We've got to have this guy," said a top NASCAR marketing figure, marveling at all Fernandez's pluses. Lowe's certainly wants him too, because the home-improvements market in Mexico is a $13 billion a year enterprise, in which rival Home Depot is already well entrenched. And the home-improvement market on this side of the border is also a war zone. Fernandez realizes his next step could be big. First, he'd have to pull up roots and move from his Phoenix home to North Carolina. Then he'd have to dive headfirst into one of the most intense and long-running sports series in the country. "It's very tough, because you basically have to start all over again," Fernandez said. "When you think you've got it, and you're still only 20th; gosh, wow. "It's funny in the rookie meetings. I've been racing for 24 years and some of these guys could be my kids, you know. "But in a way it feels good to know I've already done it, and these kids still have to do some of the things I've already done. It does make you feel humble and appreciate how tough racing is. And it makes you value more what I've done in my career, if I can say that. Because it's not easy. And I can see why I was so successful in open-wheel racing, because I was 100-percent dedicated, and that was basically everything I did for 24 years. "But these stock cars are totally different. They react totally different. They don't drive as well. They are very heavy. They sit on top of the track and don't get into the track. They're not planted, like Indy cars. It's a totally different feel. "Qualifying has been tough, the toughest I think. I was only a tenth faster in qualifying than my best practice lap. That's something you don't practice a lot. It's like pit stops – how do I know how to get into my pit box, because I don't get to practice that until the race. So how do I know how I have to brake?

"That's why it's been so tough for all open-wheel racers to come over here. The bottom line is it's just so different." Talking with Hendrick Now the decision deadline looms. "We're talking with Rick and Lowe's, and what I told them was, first, I very honestly need to know if I have the patience, and if I can have the commitment. I just got married this year, and I'm doing things I haven't done for 24 years. And it wouldn't be fair for Rick and Lowe's just to do laps. And that's not what I want to do either; if I'm here, it's because I want to be competitive and I want to win. "So I have to make a decision if this is what I really want to do. "These three races (Texas, Phoenix and Homestead) I will see what it's all about and decide what I want to do. It's a lot of commitment, 30-some races, and I've never done that much before. "It's a complete change of lifestyle. And you have to live somewhere close to Charlotte. "That's all a big commitment. We're evaluating all that, to see if we want to do it."

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