Hello, Mexico!

Mar 1, 2005 8:47 AM

Coming into next week’s race in Las Vegas we have a much better picture on who will do well, based on Roush Racing’s dominant performance at California.

Led by eventual winner Greg Biffle, Roush placed five drivers in the top seven finishing places. Matt Kenseth, perhaps Roush’s most consistent driver, had a strong car much of the day but faltered to a 26th place finish.

Las Vegas has been a track dominated by Roush Racing over the years. In the seven Cup races at LVMS, Roush has claimed five. The last two came on back to back wins by Kenseth.

The performance last week at California quite possibly could be duplicated next week. The setup for the cars will almost be the same. Indications from the preseason Vegas testing were that the Roush cars and Dodges of Evernham and Penske will be the fastest.

The Palms and Station Casinos sports books have the odds to win for Vegas set already. Stations posted Kasey Kahne at 7-1, followed by Ryan Newman (8-1). The Roush gang are all around the 12-1 range with rookie Carl Edwards, who finished fifth at California, in at 28-1.

Currently, Las Vegan Kurt Busch leads the points race by five over Jimmie Johnson, picking up right where he left off last year en route to winning the Championship. Station Casinos lists Busch 8-1 to win the 2005 title

One of the Nextel Cup favorites, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is off to a slow start. Most figured the DEI team would struggle at California, but not finishing 13 laps behind in 32nd place. Knowing that California and Vegas are very similar, the team may want to go back to the drawing board before coming to Vegas with that same car.

The Cup series is off this week, but the NASCAR Busch Series kicks into high gear in Mexico City. This weekend’s race in Mexico is the first major step in expanding the North American market covering every corner of the continent. NASCAR is looking into the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver or Seattle, as the next target.

The Mexico City road course is 2.786 miles with plenty of right and left turns and differing grades of incline. The crowd is expected to be very large. In 2003, the CART series raced in front of 213,000 fans. Much of that attendance figure had to with a few of the CART drivers hailing from Mexico. If NASCAR could draw half that figure, it will be considered a resounding success.

Along with the regular Busch Series drivers, Mexico City will also be treated to having some Cup regulars. Boris Said, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Robby Gordon, Carl Edwards, Rusty Wallace, Joe Nemechek, and Elliott Sadler are entered.

The top candidate to win the race will be Ron Fellows, the hired assassin. Fellows will be driving a Joe Nemechek owned car. Anything that can be found on Fellows over 3-1 should be considered extreme value. Gordon and Said will be Fellows top competition. Fernandez, who may know the track better than anyone, will be driving the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy. That car won the series title two years ago and finished second last year.

Of the regular Busch series drivers, Paul Menard may be the best equipped to hang. As always in a road course race, there is a limited amount of drivers that are qualified and equipped to win. Look for an exciting race and a whole new market of fans gained for NASCAR.