NASCAR Mexico makes its U.S. debut at Phoenix

Leave a comment

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.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
Leave a comment

John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski