Toni Montgomery · Sunday March 5, 2006
In A Nutshell: In a race filled with road course ringers, most people probably wouldn’t have given Denny Hamlin much of a chance at winning on the challenging Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, but Hamlin was the master of turning left and right to score his first Busch Series victory in Mexico City. Hamlin earned the prize after holding off one of the best in road course racing, Boris Said, through a rash of late cautions and restarts. Kevin Harvick finished third in a tight battle across the line with Hamilin’s teammate J.J. Yeley. Paul Menard rounded out the top five finishers.
Who Should Have Won: This was pretty much Denny Hamlin’s race to lose, but he proved to be up to the challenge. Said dominated the early laps, but Hamlin was right in his tire tracks and pulled away when it counted—- towards the finish. It was fitting that it should come down to these two drivers at the end, simply because they were the dominators all day. The difference between Hamlin’s win and Said’s runner-up finish was simply how Hamlin’s team put together the better race strategy, giving Hamlin the better car and track position over Said when he needed it.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Is there anything Denny Hamlin can’t do?
So far in 2006, he’s won the Cup opener exhibition event on a restrictor plate track, and now adds his first Busch Series victory on a road course. I have yet to decide if Hamlin is the all-around great driver everyone thinks he is, but this sure adds weight to his case for it.
2) Can the Busch Series still put on a good show without the Buschwhackers?
This race probably featured one of the lower Buschwhacker counts we are likely to see this season, but the Busch Series still put on a good show without a horde of Cup drivers. That view may not quite be accurate, though, because in place of the Cup drivers we saw a large number of road course ringers, and they actually generated much of the excitement.
3) Did the second appearance of the NASCAR Busch Series in Mexico City generate as much interest as their first?
Fox television commentators said there were 100,000 people at the race, but that’s at least 30,000 less than the estimates given from last year’s event. It seems to me I saw a number of empty seats in the stands.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
This race had quite an international flavor from a driver standpoint, as well as the location of the track. In addition to the American competitors, there were eight Mexican drivers, two Canadians, and one Belgian.
Carlos Contreras was the highest finishing Mexican driver in 11th. Adrian Fernandez in 12th and Jorge Goeters in 15th were the other Mexican competitors to come up with Top 20 results. The Canadian contingent, however, didn’t fare as well. Ron Fellows and Paul Tracy looked to have something for the field, but both had problems. Fellows ended up 33rd while Tracy came home 37th. Belgian Marc Goossens had the best result, as he brought the No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford of Robert Yates Racing home in ninth in his Busch Series debut.
In other results worth noting, wonders never cease, as NASCAR actually corrected a bad call today. Kevin Harvick was initially penalized during the race when he passed Todd Kluever on the left during a restart. Team owner Richard Childress questioned the call, because drivers were instructed in the pre-race driver’s meeting that all passing on a restart would be to the left, meaning Harvick correctly followed the instructions he was given. Childress didn’t get anywhere initially, and Harvick was forced to serve a drive through penalty…but under a caution that came out just as Harvick was serving the penalty, NASCAR reversed its decision. They conceded that Harvick had indeed acted correctly as instructed in the driver’s meeting, and returned him to his third place position while the field was lined up behind the pace car. This one penalty carried championship standings implications because Harvick had entered the race as the points leader. Now, with his third place finish in the race, Harvick was able to still hold the lead in the Busch Series points standings by 14 over second place J.J. Yeley. Denny Hamlin moves up seven spots on the strength of his win, and trails Harvick by 22 points in third. Jamie McMurray stays in fourth and Clint Bowyer drops two spots to fifth after three events. McMurray will not be running the full Busch Series season, but the remainder of the drivers in the top five are competing for the championship.
Behind the top five, rookie contender Burney Lamar hangs on to sixth spot, while Jason Leffler picked up five spots to take over seventh and Carl Edwards picks up six to take over eighth. Jon Wood, on the other hand, was on his way to another top ten result when he got punted off track in the late going in Mexico. His 27th place result drops him two spots in the points race to ninth. Jason Keller moves up one spot to take the tenth spot this week.
Buschwhackers in this race: 9
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 45 of 129
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 6
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 3 of 3
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 of Busch Series points standings: 6
"There were still 20-some laps to go, and I don’t know what Kyle was thinking because he hurt himself – not as much as myself – and I don’t know what some guys think. I don’t know what Kyle was thinking. He went to the outside like it was the last lap. There were still 20-some laps to go, and I don’t know what he was thinking; he put me in the wall. He went outside, inside, and I don’t know how guys like this sometimes win races when they drive like this. He hurt himself. He had a good chance at winning the race and he killed it. This race is so important for us, and finally we were able to put this deal together last minute, and it was so important for us to run good and get a good finish. This killed it.” Michel Jourdain, Jr. after contact with Kyle Busch while leading put him out of the race. Busch went on to finish seventh.
“The guy that driving the 90 car, guys like him think they have nothing to lose and everything to prove, and he doesn’t realize that we’re racing 33 more races than he is. It’s just frustrating to come here and race the guys that I race every week, as clean as we can race and have someone like that cause a problem – cause many problems. We had a really good race car. On the upside. I’m glad that we’re fast because that softens the blow of not having a good finish.” Jon Wood
“I think we had a chance to be up there, but something went wrong on that pit stop when I was leading when I came in. There was a problem there and I don’t know exactly what it was, but we lost quite some time there. But, I was able to work my way back through the field, so I’m pretty happy with a Top 10. This is my first NASCAR (race). I did a test in Sebring in January, a one-day test and that’s all I did. I’m very pleased with it.” Marc Goossens
Next Up: The Busch Series heads to the home of Lady Luck as they travel to Las Vegas next week. The Sam’s Town 300 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway can be seen at 6:00 PM ET on FX.
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