All of the action was South of the Border this past weekend, as the NASCAR Busch Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series made their second annual visits to Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and the World Rally Championship contested the Rally of Mexico in and around the city of Leon, in Central Mexico, for the third time.
NASCAR Busch Series: Hamlin Breaks Through in Mexico City
Denny Hamlin, who was so impressive in winning the NASCAR Nextel Cup Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last month, picked up his first-ever Busch Series win on Sunday on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City. Hamlin, with little road racing experience, was very impressive, hounding early leader and polesitter Boris Said in the early laps and leading 40 of the race’s 79 laps. He had to hold Said off through a spate of late-race cautions, but was able to get away on each restart and was never seriously challenged.
For awhile it looked like Kyle Busch had the hot hand, but he made contact with Michael Jourdain while battling for the lead on Lap 53 and both spun, putting Jourdain out. Busch pitted during the ensuing caution but got nabbed for speeding in pit lane, prompting a drive-through penalty and relegating him to 32nd, from where he staged an impressive comeback.
Kevin Harvick finished third, ahead of Hamlin’s teammate J.J. Yeley and Paul Menard. Johnny Sauter, Busch, Carl Edwards, Belgian road-racing ace Marc Goossens (in Robert Yates Racing’s No. 90 Ford), and Jamie Mc Murray completed the top ten.
The race was very well attended, and a number of Mexican drivers – including Jourdain, Adrian Fernandez, Carlos Contreras and last year’s polesitter Jorge Goeters, among others – generated a lot of support from the fans, which should further cement this event’s inclusion on future years’ schedules.
The series will rejoin the Nextel Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 79 laps
2) Boris Said, No. 9 Evernham Motorsports Dodge Charger, 79 laps
3) Kevin Harvick, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 79 laps
4) J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 79 laps
5) Paul Menard, No. 11 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 79 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Kevin Harvick, 467; 2) J.J. Yeley, 453; 3) Denny Hamlin, 445; 4) Jamie McMurray, 409; 5) Clint Bowyer, 400.
WRC: Loeb Takes First Win of Season in Mexico
Two-time and defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb claimed his first victory of the year on Sunday in the third annual Rally of Mexico. Driving a privately-entered Citroen Xsara entered by Kronos Racing, Loeb won with a 48.9-second margin of victory over the works Subaru Impreza of 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, who looked until Saturday’s penultimate stage to be enroute to victory.
Solberg jumped into the lead from Friday’s first stage, and held a 4.8-second lead over Ford’s Mikka Hirvonen, with Loeb another 4.7 seconds back. However, Hirvonen went off the road early Saturday and fell back, promoting Loeb to second, and then Solberg hit a rock that damaged his car late in the day, putting Loeb in front and demoting Solberg to second, 37.7 seconds behind. Loeb was able to maintain his lead in Sunday’s final three stages, stretching his lead by another 11 seconds.