Photo by John Thawley Lowe's Fernandez Racing looked set to celebrate its second podium of the season with less than five minutes remaining in the American Le Mans Series' debut at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately, a gamble on fuel strategy brought the team's bid to an abrupt end on the final lap of the race as Adrian Fernandez coasted to the finish with the #15 Lowe's Acura Lola out of fuel.
Luis Diaz started the race in seventh position [fifth in the LMP2 class], and stayed out of trouble and on pace running fourth in class and sixth overall. The team took advantage of a full-course caution just after the 30-minute mark to make their mandatory driver change and Fernandez resumed in 11th position, seventh in class.
While several of the frontrunners still had to pit for driver changes, the team felt they were good to go to the end banking on at least one additional full-course yellow on the tight and challenging street circuit. With 40 minutes remaining, Fernandez broke into the top-five and by the 30-minute mark was running third overall and making up ground on the second-place car of Sascha Maassen [Penske Porsche]. With the clock approaching 90 seconds to go and a caution not forthcoming, Fernandez was desperately trying to save as much fuel as possible which allowed Butch Leitzinger of Dyson Racing to pass. By the time the checkered flag came out, Fernandez was coasting down pit lane, three quarts shy of enough fuel.
Lowe's Fernandez Racing heads to Texas next week for the Grand Prix of Houston. The two-hour and 45-minute race will be held on the streets of Houston around JAGFlo Speedway Reliant Park on April 21.
Adrian Fernandez, #15 Lowe's Acura Lola:
"We had a good run, good pit stop and Luis drove very well. We were just a little short on fuel. It was one of those things. We were expecting at least one or two more yellows and they didn't happen. Our strategy looked like it was going to work. When we pitted with Luis, it was under yellow and it was the right thing to do. The car was fast but we were just one lap shy of the finish on fuel."
Luis Diaz, #15 Lowe's Acura Lola:
"The team performed very well. The car was quick and Adrian was very impressive. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough fuel at the end. We were just a little bit short, but we have to be very proud of what we have accomplished in these last three races. I am very proud to be a part of this team and I think we look very good for the rest of the season."