Gutierrez wins ARCA East opener in wild three-wide finish
Max Gutierrez didn’t have to wait long to earn his first racing victory in the United States.
Gutierrez, a six-time Super Kart Champion and last year’s NASCAR Mexico Challenge Series champion, used a three-wide move off Turn 4 on the final lap to come away with the win in Monday night’s ARCA East season opener at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.
Gutierrez ran third starting the final lap and moved to the inside as Sammy Smith drove Taylor Gray up the track exiting Turn 4. Gutierrez claimed the win by a scant 0.046 seconds.
The last lap was the only one Gutierrez led the entire night although he had run in the top-10 the whole race.
“I just can’t believe it,” a stunned Gutierrez said after getting out of his No. 30 Rette Jones Racing Ford. “I am very happy and very proud of the team. This is a great, great start toward the championship.”
Gutierrez, an 18-year-old native of Mexico City, advanced to the NASCAR Mexico Challenge Series, a developmental series for the NASCAR Mexico Peak Series, similar to the relationship between the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup series.
He won seven races in the Challenge series over the past two seasons, including the season title in 2020.
“I’m so proud of Max and his determination, not to mention the work by everyone on this Rette Jones Racing team. I knew we had a shot if we timed it right and Max did his job when it counted most and we’re winners again," said team co-owner Mark Rette.
“Can’t wait for Five Flags later this month.”
Smith had been leading the race until it was halted by rain with five laps remaining. During the break, Smith was issued a penalty for pitting out of sequence during the halfway break and restarted in fourth.
Another wreck after the restart put Gray in the lead heading into the final overtime.
“You know none of that should have happened,” Smith said. “They penalized us eight laps later for something we did right and everyone else did wrong. You can’t really control that.
“I felt like I had to do what I had to do at the end because I thought we had the best car.”
The series moves next to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., on Feb. 27.
NASCAR Mexico champion Max Gutierrez moving to ARCA East
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