In a Nutshell: The stage was set for Scott Pruett to avenge his crushing loss in this race last year. With Brad Parrott on the pit box and driving Juan Pablo Montoya‘s race-winning car from 2007, Pruett was the class of the field. Pruett and the No. 40 team built a commanding lead and were in position to win the race. A late-race caution, however, erased Pruett’s lead and put Kyle Busch and the No. 20 on his tail. Pruett held off Busch for a while, but used up his tires in the process, leaving Busch to score his third consecutive Nationwide Series win in the Corona Mexico 200, his first NASCAR win on a road course.
Busch was celebratory in victory lane, but he refused again to answer whether he has decided to run for the Nationwide Series title, stating that the decision to run Nationwide races would continue to be made on a race-by-race basis. “We’re not ready to let that one out of the bag” said Busch.
Busch remained third in the points after the race, but moved within 66 points of Clint Bowyer, who kept his points lead with a sixth-place finish. Carl Edwards finished third in the race and now trails Bowyer by only nine points in the series standings.
Who Should Have Won: Pruett. The road course in Mexico City and the Nationwide Series in general owe Pruett a long overdue win. Pruett and his No. 40 team did everything right on Sunday. The car was fast, the pit crew did its job, and Pruett kept his nose clean and his laps smooth all race long. Nonetheless, there is no substitute for momentum, and Busch’s No. 20 team has it. Here’s hoping that Ganassi keeps Pruett in the No. 40 for the races at Montreal and Watkins Glen; much like Boris Said, Pruett has helped a lot of NASCAR drivers learn to road race, and he deserves a win in a NASCAR event.
Marcos Ambrose‘s job may not be in jeopardy, but his chances of doing anything with his sophomore season certainly were coming into Sunday. The weekend started poorly, with Ambrose forced to start in the back of the field due to a clutch problem. The No. 59 was also penalized early in the race for its pit crew having left the pit wall too early. Rather than throwing in the towel, Ambrose drove like a Tasmanian devil through the field, scoring a career-best second-place finish. The finish was Ambrose’s first top 10 of the season and moved him to 13th in the points.
Mike Bliss is proving to be the shot in the arm that Phoenix Racing’s No. 1 car needed. Despite Sunday marking Bliss’s first road-course start in the Nationwide Series since 1998, Bliss kept his nose clean and steadily moved his way up from the 24th starting position, scoring a ninth-place finish. The result marked back to back top-10 finishes for the No. 1 team, the first time that the team has done so since Mike Wallace finished fifth at Milwaukee and seventh at Daytona for the team in 2006.
Scott Wimmer struggled royally in this race last year, finishing a lap down in 30th position. This year was a marked improvement for Wimmer and his No. 29 team, as Wimmer led 13 laps and scored a seventh-place run. The finish was a solid rebound for the team after Jeff Burton lost an engine last week, and marked Wimmer’s second consecutive top 10 behind the wheel. The No. 29 car is now fourth in owner points.
Better Luck Next Time
Stanton Barrett had hoped to make headlines this weekend both by giving his dad Stan Barrett a final race and by scoring another solid finish for his No. 30 team. Starting Friday, the feel-good story proved not to be. Barrett’s father struggled so much with his No. 31 car that he withdrew from the race prior to qualifying (Kenny Hendrick qualified the car and finished 38th after running only 30 laps). Barrett, meanwhile, struggled with brake issues all weekend along and finished the race in a distant 30th, the last car on the lead lap.
There are a lot of drivers in Sunday’s field that would have loved to leave Mexico City with a 14th-place finish, but for Adrian Fernandez the result was a bitter disappointment. Fernandez, celebrating his birthday this weekend, decided to run double duty between the Nationwide Series and the American Le Mans series in Long Beach, Calif., leaving his No. 5 team to start at the back of the field. Fernandez proved to be among the top cars in the field, quickly making his way to the front, but got damaged after being spun out by Sam Hornish Jr. Even with a damaged spoiler deck,
Fernandez stormed through the field during the latter portions of the race to finish 14th, leaving his legions of fans in the stands to wonder what could have been had Fernandez not been caught in traffic all day.
Ford development drivers all had strong showings throughout the race, but all failed to post finishes to show for it. Kelly Bires, in his first road-course start in a stock car, showed remarkable ability all weekend long before a broken transmission relegated him to a 31st-place finish. Erik Darnell‘s Nationwide Series debut resulted in a disappointing 26th-place finish after a late race spin. Colin Braun‘s pole-sitting run ended in a 33rd-place finish after suffering a flat tire.
Lastly, David Ragan was spun by Ruben Pardo late in the race while running third; Ragan fell back to 30th and only made up eight positions by race’s end, finishing 22nd and falling to fifth in Nationwide points.
Said needed a strong finish more than anyone in the field this weekend, desperately searching for funding to keep his Sprint Cup team afloat. Said qualified well and had a strong car all weekend, but was uncharacteristically in trouble all over the Mexican road course. Said lost positions early after locking up the brakes and skidding off-course in turn 1 before also being spun out early by Patrick Carpentier.
Said fought his way back through the field before finally being wrecked by Ambrose. The DNF cost Said a lot more than a shot at the Mexico City win, and his amplified anger at Ambrose post-race demonstrated his total frustration at how his NASCAR career has stalled.
Underdog Performer of the Race
Kenny Wallace faces a tall order in trying to turn Jay Robinson Racing’s No. 28 team around, but he is definitely helping the team improve. Wallace and the team landed a 25th-hour sponsor for the weekend’s race in Mexico City, stayed on the lead lap all race long and scored a 19th-place finish, the best finish for the No. 28 all season. Wallace has now posted back to back top 20s for the team, momentum that the team will need with Talladega on the horizon.
“Purse Snatcher” Watch
Seven of 43 starting positions in the Corona Mexico 200 went to Sprint Cup regulars.
110 of 387 starting positions in Nationwide Series races this season have gone to Sprint Cup regulars.
Four Sprint Cup regulars finished in the top 10 of the Corona Mexico 200.
Eight of nine Nationwide Series races have been won by Sprint Cup regulars this season.
Five of the top 10 in Nationwide Series points are Sprint Cup regulars.
“Either he [Marcos Ambrose] made a major mistake or he’s really stupid, and I don’t think he made that kind of mistake… I’m going to go apologize to his crew chief in advance for the racecar he’s going to have to fix in the future.” – Boris Said on his wreck with Marcos Ambrose
“There’s no point in getting in the crew chief’s face because he’s not driving the car. I’m going to ring him on Monday and hopefully sleep will help him just think through things a little bit more. I value Boris’s friendship and he is a fantastic racer.” – Marcos Ambrose on Boris Said’s confrontation with his crew chief
Up Next: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Talladega, Ala. this Saturday, April 26, for the season’s second restrictor-plate race. Coverage from NASCAR’s largest superspeedway begins at 2:30 p.m. on ABC and 3 p.m. on MRN.
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