Mexico City: Round nine preview

Mexico City: Round nine preview
Apr 17, 2008, 4:57 AM

* Excitement, Passion, Drama Greet Teams In Mexico City * Corona Mexico 200 Field Gives Event An All-Star Feel * Stanton Barrett And Father, Stan, Run Side-By-Side In Mexico Mexico City Event Has The Look Of An All-Star Event The Corona Mexico ...

* Excitement, Passion, Drama Greet Teams In Mexico City
* Corona Mexico 200 Field Gives Event An All-Star Feel
* Stanton Barrett And Father, Stan, Run Side-By-Side In Mexico

Mexico City Event Has The Look Of An All-Star Event

The Corona Mexico 200, the fourth consecutive trip to Mexico City for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, is a preeminent race on the 2008 schedule -- and then some.

This year's version can also be touted as a virtual all-star event for the series.

The entry list carries the clout of series regulars, double-duty (NASCAR Nationwide AND NASCAR Sprint Cup) drivers, international open-wheel superstars, road-course aces and natives of Mexico understandably excited to race in front of their passionate fans.

Mexico City's own Adrian Fernandez (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet), one of the country's most famous sports figures and always among the favorites to win this race, has two top-10 finishes in three races at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

"You hear (the fans) cheering for you and you have that extra bite to try to do your best in front of them," he said.

Last year's runner-up, Scott Pruett (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge); Kyle Busch (No. 20 Doosan Infracore Toyota); Boris Said (No. 25 No Fear / Team Smithfield Ford); Patrick Carpentier (No. 9 AAPA Dodge); Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge); Michel Jourdain Jr. (No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota); and Max Papis (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) also dot the roster.

Series regulars with solid road course backgrounds like Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford); Brad Coleman (No. 27 Carino's Ford) and Colin Braun (No. 16 3M Ford) are entered.

Defending series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford), who has an average finish of 5.0 at this track, will race as will defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Chevrolet).

Mexico City Race Offers Opportunity For Redemption

Last year, Scott Pruett looked to be on his way to a win from the pole in Mexico City.

He was leading with 10 laps to go until a bump-and-run -- road-course style -- from his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, took him out of contention and relegated him to a fifth-place finish.

In 2006, hometown favorite Michel Jourdain Jr. was leading at Lap 52 of the 80-lap event when he spun after contact with Kyle Busch.

Jourdain finished well off the pace in 38th. Busch finished seventh.

All but Montoya will be at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday, creating the potential for plenty of drama.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Brings International Flair To Mexico City

Of the 48 entries for the Corona Mexico 200, drivers from six countries are represented on the entry list:

38 drivers are from the United States. Marcos Ambrose is from Australia. Patrick Carpentier and D.J. Kennington (No. 81 MC2/NPPL Dodge) are from Canada. Max Papis is from Italy. Alex Garcia (No. 98 Dixien-OmniSource Chevrolet) is from Venezuela. In addition to Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain Jr., the five-man Mexican contingent includes Ruben Pardo (No. 22 Telcel/Bombardier LearJet Dodge), the 2006 NASCAR Camping World Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Pardo was the first Mexican-born driver to win in the series when he did so that same season at Lime Rock (Connecticut) Park.

Antonio Perez (No. 86 Chivas Racing-Telmex Dodge), the 2006 NASCAR Mexico Rookie of the Year. Perez highlighted his second season by earning his first career stock car victory Sept. 2 in Monterrey. He capped the season by finishing second in the finale at Mexico City in September. He also qualified for NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2007.

Perez' car is an inter-sport collaboration with one of its sponsors, Club Diportivo Chivas, touted as "Mexico's most-loved" soccer team. Finally, Joe Luis Ramirez (No. 84 Dodge), a teammate of Perez in this event, has run on a limited basis in the NASCAR Camping World Series West. He had six starts last season and in 13 starts in 2004, finished 10th in the standings.

In The Loop: Mexico City Could Be Ambrose's Slump-Shaker

On paper -- or more specifically, the stat sheet -- Mexico City looks like the perfect place for Marcos Ambrose to straighten out his 2008 season.

After a promising 2007 rookie campaign that saw a top five and six top 10s, the Aussie has struggled thus far in 2008. Ambrose's best finish is 11th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the only top-15 result of his year. But this weekend's road course may cure all ills. A road course ace, Ambrose excelled at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last season. In his eighth-place finish, he scored a Driver Rating of 104.6, an Average Running Position of 10.5, 36 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green) and ran 80.5% of the laps in the top 15.

Another angle to watch is Carl Edwards versus Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) -- again. The points leader (Bowyer) and the second-place driver (Edwards) have been neck-and-neck all season long, and the battle should continue internationally.

In his three Mexico City races, Edwards has racked up some outstanding stats. He has a Driver Rating of 101.0, an Average Running Position of 11.0 and has run 76.0% of the laps in the top 15.

Trailing Edwards in most stat categories, Bowyer has a Mexico City Driver Rating of 87.3, an Average Running Position of 15.1 and has run 60.6% of the laps among the top 15.

Then, as usual, there is Kyle Busch. Busch, winner of two consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races, finished seventh at Mexico City in 2006 -- his only start at the historic track. In that race, he earned a Driver Rating of 110.0, an Average Running Position of 11.8 and 11 Fastest Laps Run.

One other note of interest, only seven drivers have notched a fastest lap in the 159 circuits run at the 2.518-mile track. And only two of them are entered this weekend -- Busch and second-year driver Brad Coleman.

The Director's Take: Brake Set-Up Crucial For Mexico City Race

The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Mexico City with plenty of anticipation for the drivers and crews that participate.

"The excitement of racing in Mexico in front of such passionate race fans that overwhelmingly support their local heroes is a highlight of our season," said NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash.

"Since this is our first road course race of the season, there will be a big mind-set change for the teams from racing on ovals with long straightaways to the technical turns of this track that will challenge the skill level of every driver," he said.

"As they prepare for this track, teams will have to make sure they set their break systems to the style of their driver.

"At Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, it's important not to over-extend the brakes in the early stages so there aren't issues in the closing laps when it's most important for the brakes to be working properly."

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Most Wins: Three drivers with one win.
Most Poles: Three drivers with one pole.
Quick Fact: Boris Said has a pole and three top-five finishes in his three races in Mexico City but has yet to capture a win.

NNS Etc.

Mexico is shaping up to be a father -- son outing for the Barretts. Stanton Barrett (No. 30 SKI Motorsports/SBM Chevrolet) and his father Stan (No. 31 SKI Motorsports/SBM Chevrolet), 64, are entered in the event. Stan Barrett was the first man to exceed the speed of sound in a ground vehicle, reaching 739.666 mph in 1979. He started 19 races in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition from 1980-90 with two top-10 finishes. His son has over 150 NASCAR Nationwide Series career starts, has competed in two previous races in Mexico City. Both are accomplished stuntmen and are credited with roles in some of Hollywood's top action movies.

This year's race will feature its fourth different winner, but two drivers have a chance to repeat as pole winners. Boris Said won the pole in 2006 while Scott Pruett is the defending pole winner. Previous winners were Martin Truex Jr. (2005); Denny Hamlin (2006) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2007). Chris Cook (No. 90 Chevrolet) has a chance to put his driving instruction skills on the line in Mexico City. He owns "Shift Into Gear," a driver coaching and testing company, but will try to compete in his third NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Mexico and his eighth series road course event overall. Cook has assisted drivers such as two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart with their road course skills.

Versatility is the name of the game for series drivers, who are in the midst of a four-race span that has taken or will take them to a short track, an intermediate track, a road course, and a superspeedway. Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Kyle Busch's back-to-back wins have helped Toyota cut into Chevrolet's lead in the Bill France Performance Cup standings.

In a good-news, bad-news scenario for Chevy, its two wins lead the manufacturer pack in Mexico. But the bad news -- the white-hot Busch is running in this event.

Up Next: Aaron's 312 At Talladega Superspeedway

The series' lone trip to Talladega Superspeedway is up next. The Aaron's 312 takes place on Saturday, April 26.

Bobby Labonte edged Tony Stewart in a side-by-side battle to the finish line last year in one of the most exciting races of the season. Brad Coleman won his first career series pole there one year ago.

Fast Facts

The Race: Corona Mexico 200 presented by Banamex

The Place: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
The Date: Sunday, April 20

The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2, 1:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 201.44 miles/80 laps
Track Size: 2.518-mile road course

2007 Winner: Juan Pablo Montoya
2007 Pole: Scott Pruett

Friday -- Practice 1-2:15 p.m.; Final Practice 3:05-5 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 10:35 a.m. (NASCAR Road Race qualifying).

-credit: nascar

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