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.
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.
Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.
The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.
FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.
Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”
The damage caused to the TecPro barrier has also caused the planned GP3 race to be cancelled, giving the track workers time to carry out repairs ahead of the F1 qualifying session later today.
Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.
Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning as the session was called early following a heavy crash for Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
With 25 minutes remaining, the session was stopped when Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13, pitching in under the TecPro barrier at the fastest point of the circuit.
A loss of power on the car meant that Toro Rosso could not make contact with its driver, causing concern as the medical crew was sent to the crash site to tend to Sainz.
Replays showed that Spaniard lost the back-end of his car under braking coming into turn 13, causing him to hit the wall on the left-hand side of the track before travelling down the track and into the wall at the end of the high-speed straight.
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was shown on TV cameras to be moving around on a stretcher, giving a thumbs up before being placed into an ambulance.
“The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated,” FIA media chief Matteo Bonciani told reporters. “When we know something, we will let you know.”
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost added: “As far as I am informed, he is conscious. He is now with the doctor. I think that he is so far okay.”
With qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix due to start in just two hours’ time, it is unlikely that Sainz will be able to take part in the session, with Tost believing it to be “too risky”.
The amount of damage caused to the barrier could also result in delays across the course of Saturday’s running, with GP3 scheduled to race before the F1 qualifying session. The early sunset in Sochi could also cause problems towards the end of the day.