NASCAR Mexico makes its U.S. debut at Phoenix

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History will be made on Friday when the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series stages its first-ever event on American soil at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Toyota 120, announced last October, will kick off the series’ 15-race schedule for 2013 and is part of PIR’s undercard for Sunday’s Sprint Cup main event. It’ll feature a segmented format, with a 50-lap first segment, a break, and then a 25-lap final segment.

Practice for the race begins on Thursday for the Mexican league, which started in 2004. NASCAR took over sanctioning of the series in 2007, and it now serves as one of three NASCAR-sanctioned international series (the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and the Europe-based Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series being the others).

Last season, Jorge Goeters (above), best-known Stateside as the pole sitter for the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mexico City back in 2005, claimed the Toyota Series title. He and a full field of drivers are expected to compete on Friday.

Considering Phoenix’s sizable Latino population, it’s natural that the one-mile “Desert Jewel” gets the first opportunity to expose NASCAR Mexico to the American public. In addition, with the Toyota 120 being part of the Sprint Cup weekend, a golden opportunity is there for the Mexican racers to perform in front of some of the sport’s most important figures.

NASCAR has made efforts to diversify its fan base as a whole, and to tap into the lucrative Latino market. But with that particular group only making up 10 percent of its fan base, there’s still work to be done.

Perhaps a little more progress can be made, however, with this important race at PIR.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.