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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

"Take a letter, Maria."
3/22/04

Athens, NY—Not withstanding the rest of Adrian Fernandez’ laundry list of reasons for bailing to devote his full-time efforts to f-inheritor, reasons that have recently been published as an open letter at Adrian’s website and candidly discussed during at least one prominent TV interview, anyone with a financial stake in the new Champ Car Company who arrived at Spring Training to find a swizzle straw-sucking Joseph Heitzler consuming mass quantities of free air and space—commodities that would have been better appropriated had his mysteriously absent boss OWRS partner Gerald Forsythe been using them in his stead—has every right to question the future, if not the authenticity, of the OWRS partnership. Shades of Baba O'Reilley, for sure. "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss.”

“I can’t save Champ Car on my own, and I had to look at the facts that were presented by OWRS and decide if we wanted to take the risk and move forward based on empty promises and a “trust us” mentality. Long Beach was not close to what I expected and we made our decision then, after talking with our sponsors, to go to the IRL,” Fernandez sums up his defense in this excerpt from the aforementioned epistle to a dwindling fan base.

And make no mistake. Whether Fernandez' explanation for his decision is genuine or, as many suspect, it is somehow tainted by sinister backroom conniving with Honda and/or the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway himself, Adrian has been launched on a guilt trip that may compel him to continue defending his move for a long time to come.

In a follow-up to the interview he conducted shortly after Fernandez' announcement, SPEED's Dave Despain queried:

"You [Adrian Fernandez] on Wind Tunnel last night taking phone calls was one of the most courageous things I've ever seen from a driver. Hearing some of the things that the callers said, fans of yours that were not happy with the move, how difficult is that for you to take right now?"

Adrian's answer:

"It's very difficult. But the most difficult thing is when you criticize somebody else without the facts in your hand. If I'm going to be a fan of somebody, if I'm going to be a friend of somebody, I'm not going to criticize or I'm not going to give my opinion before I have the facts on my hand. Everybody has a right to criticize and to say something. But I've been surprised [at] the way some of the fans have reacted without real facts in their hands.

"They need to see really why Fernandez Racing made this decision. I know the real fans [that] are behind Fernandez Racing and myself, and they'll see at the end of the day why we did this. It's nothing that Fernandez Racing and Adrian Fernandez likes—but we have no choice.

"I'm very sad what happened in open-wheel racing in the last few years. It's time to get united. It's time to look forward to the future.

"The things that were presented to us, like I said before, were not an assurance that the series will continue. [If it does not open at Long Beach and continue] it will be the end of Fernandez Racing and I will have to put 40 employees with their families out in the street...into a situation where business [and] employee opportunities are very scarce...a lot of teams are out there. There are a lot of mechanics looking for jobs.

"When you put all this in perspective, you know, it will be the end of everything. The hit will be a lot harder than what we feel now. I think everybody is reacting by emotions, and I will understand it. But believe me, for myself and for our sponsor, it was a very, very, very hard decision to make.

"But I can't save the sport on my own. There are other things that have happened through the years to get where we are. Unfortunately, the old Champ Car that we know is all gone. Just look at the teams that there are now. Look at the teams that were there. Look at the drivers that were there and are there now.

"You have to look at the facts of the real situation and the facts that [have] been happening in the last few days to really make a good judgment. At the end, every opinion, every comment is respectable for everybody."

Notice the bold-typed opening sentence in the penultimate paragraph of the transcript of Adrian's reply. There he goes again with his quasi-apology—or is it merely a talking point?—for the inability to be Champ Car racing's savior while knowing full well that not a single one of us ever expected him to fill that bill.

Our disappointment with Adrian is rooted in the present and, whatever approach he may take to explain away the reasoning for his move, it still amounts to a desertion at a critical moment. No wonder Señor Fernandez has been acting so guilty.

This renegade scribe is attempting to not be unduly critical of one of the most affable and approachable personalities our beloved speed sport has ever known. That Adrian stuck around at least until the official end of CART is also admirable.

Unfortunately, none of us has "all the facts in our hands" about OWRS and, like Adrian Fernandez, we're all "very sad about what happened in open-wheel racing in the last few years."

Wouldn't we all like to see an open letter to Champ Car fans filled with good news topics for a change? Perhaps Gerald Forsythe could illuminate us by posting one at his team's website—when he gets the time.

Or is there really any good news in OWRS?

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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