Off week ends up in Mexico

Apr 15, 2008 7:00 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts | This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is taking a week off, sort of a deep breath before tackling Talladega Superspeedway, by far the meanest track on the circuit.

Taking center stage in place of the Cup race will be the NASCAR Nationwide Series International event in Mexico. Several Cup regulars will be making the trip to Mexico City led by the top three in Nationwide Series points, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch.

One disappointment for this year’s Mexico 200 will be the absence of last season’s race winner, Juan Pablo Montoya. The Columbian driver has had a huge following in Mexico from his days in CART and Formula One and he solidified his place in their hearts with a great win.

Montoya may be already feeling the major difference between NASCAR and every other series he’s ever driven for, which is that the series rarely rests and there only a couple off weeks throughout the grueling January through November season.

More than making up for not having Montoya this week is that several car owners have invited the best drivers from Mexico to drive their cars. Adrian Fernandez, Carlos Contreras, and Michel Jourdain will all be given quality cars with a chance to win in their hometown race. All three are skilled road course drivers and know every little nuance of the track.

Fernandez looks to have the best car among the bunch. He’ll be piloting the No. 5 JR Motorsports, which is essentially a Hendrick Motorsports car that moved into Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Nationwide shop.

As is the case with every road course NASCAR race, we get hired assassins from all over. Scott Pruett, Brian Simo and Boris Said, three of the greatest road course sports car drivers in the world, will be driving again in a stock car on a one-race contract. In addition to those aces, Patrick Carpentier, Max Papis, and Ron Hornaday bring their great driving credentials.

The top driver and car combination for this race is likely to be Scott Pruett. Last season’s race that Montoya won was at the expense of Pruett, who was Montoya’s Ganassi teammate. Montoya was trailing Pruett late in the race and utilizing the great difference from open wheeled cars and NASCAR – the bumper. Pruett got a nudge going around a turn and Montoya wins.

It’s likely Pruett’s chief competitor will be Busch with Bowyer close behind, specifically because their cars are just that much better than everyone else’s.

That will help close the gap all the other drivers have over them from the technical end. The next three best drive-car combos belong to Carpentier, Fernandez, and Jourdain.

Talladega favorites

Even though Daytona and Talladega run very different, they still remain similar as the only two tracks that run the restrictor plate package. Over the years we have seen a few teams dominant for stretches of three years apiece.

DEI had a great run with the Chevys and then Hendrick Motorsports took over the reins. This season the major difference from years past is the COT.

Last season’s Talladega race that Jeff Gordon won was the first plate COT race ever. This season’s Daytona 500 was the second and next week will be the third.

From the first COT plate race to the second, it appeared so much changed. It also looked like the Joe Gibbs team got something right that everyone else had missed.

Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart were absolute monsters, who were virtually unbeatable. It took some lack of communication by the teammates and maybe pressure of the moment to allow Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch to blitz by.

If out and about a Las Vegas sports book over the next two weeks, stop by and check out the odds on the two Gibbs drivers. Anything over 5-1 presents solid value. We’ll update you more on that race next week.

Scott Pruett
Kyle Busch
Adrian Fernandez
Clint Bowyer
Patrick Carpentier
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