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.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”