MEXICO CITY – Thoughts, questions and some observations following the Telcel Motorola 200 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez:
Race winner Denny Hamlin credited both his car and the track itself for his race victory.
"I'm excited about road racing," Hamlin said. "It's something I love to do. And everybody knows how I like short tracks and flat tracks. So this is a mix of all three."
His winning race car was built by the same organization that builds Tony Stewart's winning road course cars.
Kevin Harvick was absent from the post-race press conference (he finished third). We were told he couldn't (or wouldn't) attend because of security issues and that he had a plane to catch. Both race winner Hamlin and second-place finisher Boris Said had no problems making it to the media center. It is customary for the Busch Series points leader (currently Harvick) to attend these media events.
Harvick's KHI also fielded two cars in the race.
It wasn't a good day for the eight Mexican drivers looking to gain a victory on their home turf. Not surprisingly, NASCAR veteran Carlos Contreras was the highest finishing of the Mexican drivers after both Jorge Goeters and Adrian Fernandez had their share of problems.
Said took another step closer to his first career NASCAR stock car victory. More than just a road course "ringer," Said is a complete race car driver who deserves a full-time ride in the Cup Series. Some have nicknamed him "Professor Said" after his tutoring of so many of the drivers in the field.
Fernandez was involved in an incident early in the race with Jamie McMurray. The Mexican driver's car was never the same. To make matters worse, he injured his right hand when McMurray hit him, making it extremely painful to shift gears the rest of the race.
After watching him walk through the NASCAR garage in the United States completely unnoticed, it is amazing to see that everywhere Fernandez went he was surrounded by dozens of people. By the way, he'll be back again for this race next year.
From all indications there will be another Busch race next year in Mexico City.
Busch told his crew chief, "I guess I'm now hated in Mexico. The response from crew chief Chad Walter, "I'm not sure, but the whole crowd may have been calling us a--holes!"
In defense of Harvick, when NASCAR attempted to penalize him for passing during a restart before crossing the start/finish, it made a strong case for instant replay in NASCAR. It was very obvious after viewing the replay on television that the pass came after both he and Todd Kluever had passed the line. After review by NASCAR officials, the penalty was rescinded.
My experience with the Mexican people this week has me believing that they are some of the hardest-working and polite people I've ever dealt with.
"Hard Luck of the Race" Award goes again this year to Busch Series veteran David Green, who suffered with transmission problems for the second year in a row here in Mexico City – a place he thoroughly enjoys.
Running a close second for the same award were Canadian drivers Ron Fellows and Paul Tracy. Both were in contention early, but Tracy's engine expired and Fellows had a radiator problem that put him out after 73 laps. Tracy had a good day on Saturday when he finished third in the Rolex Grand American race.
If NASCAR is serious about having a presence here in Mexico, why not try and get one of its biggest "name" drivers – Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. – to race here? Certainly their sponsors would get a tremendous amount of exposure.
If you've not had a chance to see the video of the fight during Saturday's Grand American race between drivers Chris Bingham and J.C. France, try and find it. It's awesome. I think it finally will prove to race fans that this series is indeed NASCAR for sports cars – and that these guys come to race.
My hat's off to rookie Joel Kauffman, who drove the entire race while under the weather with the same malady that struck many in the NASCAR entourage while here in Mexico. At one point early in the day, there was talk of him being replaced by Ron Hornaday, who had to bow out because he's a Chevy driver and Kauffman drives a Dodge.
Although the season is still young, my vote for most improved driver (in both Busch and Cup) has to go to J. J. Yeley. He has three top-10 finishes in three Busch races this season.
For me, it was another great trip to Mexico City.
Whether you like it or not, NASCAR is in Mexico to stay. By giving the Mexican fans the kind of racing they are accustomed to watching – road racing – in their initial forays south of the border, NASCAR has shown it has no plans to leave.
Team owner Felix Sabates has admitted that he's had serious discussions with several influential and presumably wealthy Mexican associates about building a ¾-mile oval near Mexico City. Sabates thinks it could happen within five years. That could pave the way for a Cup event in Mexico.
I hope so.