Originally created 11/15/02

Injury will keep Fernandez out of homecoming CART race



MEXICO CITY -- Adrian Fernandez has been forced to drop out of the CART season finale because of a neck injury.

"This is the biggest blow of my career," Fernandez said Thursday during a news conference at the Hermanos Rodriguez Autodrome.

Chief CART doctor Terry Trammell said new CAT scans showed the movement of two broken vertebrae in Fernandez's neck. Trammell said Fernandez "could be subject to a catastrophic injury and even be paralyzed" if he had another accident like the nine-car crash he was involved in at Surfers Paradise in Australia on Oct. 27.

Trammell said the 37-year-old Fernandez should be fully healed and able to drive again by February.

The announcement could be a blow to the event, which would have been a homecoming for Fernandez. His photo was on posters advertising Sunday's race, the first major competition here since Formula One abandoned the autodrome in 1992. It will be the first CART race on the road course here since 1982.

Fernandez said rookie driver Luis Diaz would replace him.

"This is the first time we've ever had a car fly out of the sky upside down and land on a driver," Trammell said, referring to the October accident. "The people who have this accident most often are fighter-jet pilots who eject from airplanes."

Fernandez, the only owner-driver on the CART circuit, has long promoted a revival of racing in Mexico City. A $30 million renovation appears to have turned the once-dreaded autodrome into a world-class track.

Before the crash in Australia, Fernandez was injured on July 28 in a race in Vancouver.