Last year, Fernandez added to his success at the track by winning the IRL race. His current resume also includes victories as a car owner, the latest last Sunday in Kentucky by Scott Sharp. Fernandez was back at the track earlier this week, in a totally different role. The veteran Mexican driver was not pushing a 1,200-pound open-wheel car around the track, but a 3,500-pound NASCAR Busch Series Chevrolet in preparation for the Sept. 3, 300-mile race at the track. It’s the same for Lowe’s. Jimmie Johnson is the company’s poster boy, but Fernandez could open the door for a new demographic for the chain. NASCAR inspires loyalty, and Lowe’s believes Fernandez can be a pied piper of sorts in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. That certainly would be great for Hendrick, which has Fernandez for five Busch races. It was supposed to be a one-off deal in the Busch race at Mexico City, but extended to include Busch races at Fontana, Phoenix, Texas and Miami. Hendrick isn’t entering the four races expecting Fernandez to win. The organization hopes Fernandez can be consistent, finish in the top 20 and improve each time. To achieve that, Fernandez spent two grueling days in the car. Instead of air conditioning, the car was loaded with telemetry. It provided data Fernandez and crew chief Jim Long poured over. It all was a new experience for Fernandez. At one point, he thought he was off the throttle, only to find he was was only half off. The tires fell off with each lap, it took more effort to steer the car and aerodymanic issues were altogether different. There is still much to learn, like driving in traffic and drafting. Long is confident his driver can learn to deal with it, as is Fernandez. After all, he’s not a rookie. The stakes are high for NASCAR, Lowe’s, Hendrick and Fernandez in the Busch race. Perhaps not as much as Martin Truex Jr.’s drive for the championship, but enough that many eyes will be on Fernandez once again. Louis Brewster covers motor racing. His column appears Thursday. He can be reached at (909) 483-9363 or [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Although he has nothing to prove, Fernandez is not taking this assignment lightly. In two days of testing at Fontana, he logged more than 400 laps in an attempt to learn as much as possible about his Lowe’s-sponsored ride. The session was more – much more – than just getting comfortable behind the wheel. NASCAR is banking on Fernandez, as is Lowe’s. Hendrick Motorsports, the same outfit that fields cars for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, also has a big stake in the project. For the sanctioning body, Fernandez represents a great opportunity to introduce the Hispanic population to stock car racing. Fernandez is an icon in Mexico, and among Hispanics on both sides of the border. His test session warranted coverage on the front page of a Mexico City newspaper on Tuesday. Adrian Fernandez knows his way around California Speedway in a race car. He’s reached speeds in excess of 250 mph at the track, one year in front of 100,000 fans. He has experienced the highs and lows of the sport at Fontana, all in one afternoon. His victory in the 1999 CART Marlboro 500 was overshadowed by the death of Gregg Moore in the same race.