Roberto Guerrero makes his NASCAR debut with the Hispanic Racing Team. CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 22, 2002) --Â The first Hispanic-owned and -sponsored team will field its first Hispanic driver in this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta...
Roberto Guerrero makes his NASCAR debut with the Hispanic Racing Team.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 22, 2002) -- The first Hispanic-owned and -sponsored team will field its first Hispanic driver in this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The HRT Motorsports No. 09 CICLON Energy Drink Chevrolet will be piloted by Roberto Guerrero, a Columbia native with vast open wheel racing experience. The pairing is the first of its kind in NASCAR, where Hispanics make up 10 percent of the fan base.
Guerrero's stock car racing debut comes in the team's third race of the year with CICLON. The team previously charted two top-20 finishes at Charlotte and Chicago. Former Busch Series champion David Green had been handling driving duties for the team, which is also scheduled to compete at Phoenix and Homestead.
HRT has had tremendous success introducing NASCAR to the Hispanic community since they teamed up in April with CICLON, a Panama-based energy drink company that distributes throughout the United States. Co-owners Rudy Rodriguez and Mike Vazquez expect that Guerrero will strike a chord with the growing Hispanic fan base as someone they can relate to.
Before heading off to Atlanta for this weekend's Aaron's 312, Guerrero and co-owner Vazquez shared their thoughts on this NASCAR milestone and a few translations for NASCAR en Español.
Driver Roberto Guerrero's thoughts --
You've got a lot of open wheel experience under your belt, including Indy, Cart and Formula One. How difficult is the switch to stock cars?
"It took a little while getting used to the weight of the cars. I found the biggest difference was being enclosed in the car. I was used to being wide open and at first I felt that the visibility was very limited. But after a couple of times you get used to it. Even though we've done a lot of testing, I haven't raced yet and I think that will be the biggest challenge. I'm really excited."
You mentioned testing. What has your preparation been like for your debut?
"We've done a quite a bit of testing. Ever since HRT was formed, we've tested at quite a few tracks, including Charlotte, Atlanta and Pikes Peak. The testing in Atlanta went really, really well, so I'm excited. I feel I'm ready to jump off the deep end and get into it. I'm also very thankful to David Green, because he pointed out a lot of things that were different in stock car racing. For example, another big change for me was how you set up the cars. In Indy, you normally set them up so they're perfect. Until they're perfect, you keep working and working on them. I was trying to do that with the stock cars, but just driving around in circles time and again and got me frustrated about trying to make improvements. David made me realize that with the stock cars they will never be perfect. You have to adjust them to the point where it's really not possible to make them handle better. It's knowing where that point is, knowing enough to stop and keep from going backwards. It's a fine line there and that has been one of the hardest things for me."
How does it feel to be part of this milestone of the first Hispanic-owned, -sponsored and -driven team?
It's great. Rudy and Mike have been working so hard on this. Really, when you look at it, it makes so much sense. NASCAR is so big, and the Hispanic market is so big in the U.S. and it's continuing to grow, so it's only natural for NASCAR to have Hispanic representation. Actually most of the other series have so many Latin-American drivers and NASCAR really hasn't had any. And being the largest series, it doesn't really make sense. Those guys (Rudy and Mike) have a great vision and hopefully we're going to make it work this weekend, with the help of CICLON Energy Drink. We hope to do a decent job and keep it moving forward."
What are your goals for this weekend's race?
"That's a tough one. First off, I'd like to just make the race and try to finish. But after the testing went so well, my expectations got a little higher. I keep telling myself that I still have to just stay out of trouble and run smooth all weekend. I will be
Co-owner Mike Vazquez's thoughts --
This is the first time the car will be Hispanic-owned, -sponsored and -driven. How does it feel after many years of work to bring a fully Hispanic race team to NASCAR?
"We're extremely happy that all of our hard word has resulted in this debut for Roberto. We couldn't be happier to see him finally taking the controls of our No. 09 car for CICLON. It's quite an accomplishment to put together a whole Hispanic package -- owners, sponsors and drivers. It's a first in NASCAR, and hopefully this is just the beginning. We are working hard for this to be a full-time occurrence next season."
What's the fan reaction been like?
"It's pretty amazing. We just completed some research with NASCAR's brand marketing office and the results are pretty telling. Since 1999, when HRT got started, NASCAR's Hispanic fan base has more than doubled to be 10 percent of NASCAR's overall fan base. And the number of Hispanic fans who say they are 'avid' fans has increased 169 percent. When you take into account the buying power of this demographic, it's really an untapped market in NASCAR. Hispanics all over the country are eager to be a part of stock car racing, to identify with a driver who has the same heritage as them, and support the Hispanic sponsors who make it happen."
In honor of Roberto Guerrero's stock car racing debut, try out a few of these NASCAR terms in Spanish!
Race = Carrera
Green flag = Bandera Verde
Oval = Ovalo
Tire = Llanta
Race track = Pista de carrera
Loose = Flojo
Tight = Apretado
Victory Circle = el Circulo de la Victoria
Lap = vuelta
Qualifying = Calificativo
Win = Victoria
Stock Car = Coche de Acciones
Roberto Guerrero will drive the No. 09 CICLON race car to victory in the Aaron's 312!
¡Roberto Guerrero manejara el No. 09 coche de CICLON a la victoria en el Aaron's 312!
ABOUT HRT Motorsports:
HRT Motorsports was established in 1999 in order to add diversity and create a new fan base within NASCAR. HRT Motorsports is the first Hispanic-owned, -sponsored and -driven NASCAR team. HRT maximizes its sponsors' demographic reach and fan-potential on three continents by enlisting two well-known auto-racing personalities within the Hispanic community: Roberto Guerrero and brother, Jaime. Both drivers are joining forces for the first time, bringing their experience and dedicated fan base to America's speedways. www.hrtmotorsports.com
ABOUT CiclOn INTERNATIONAL S.A.
Founded in 1996, produced in Austria and now headquartered in Panama City, Panama with sales and marketing in Puerto Rico, CiclOn Energy Drink is fortified with vitamins C, B2, B6, and B12. CiclOn Energy Drink launched in Puerto Rico last year and was No. 1 in its category within only seven months. CICLON thinks global and acts local in both their sales and marketing approach, making HRT Motorsports and NASCAR obvious partners. www.ciclon.com