Originally created 03/03/05

NASCAR: Trip has costs, danger for teams



MEXICO CITY - It took a lot for Jay Robinson to make Sunday's Telcel-Motorola 200, the first race off American soil in NASCAR Busch Series history, a reality.

He had to figure out a way to survive a five-week stretch of races that started in Daytona Beach, Fla., moved to Southern California, then to Mexico and Las Vegas before winding up in Atlanta.

"It's a matter of putting the cars on the trucks and getting them to the races, just like we do every week," he said.

Robinson had two teams at last Saturday's race at California Speedway. From there, they joined a massive convoy at a UPS warehouse in Laredo, Texas, where his teams were joined by trucks from North Carolina carrying road-course cars and equipment.

"Once we got to Texas, we had to take everything off one truck and replace it with our road-course stuff," Robinson said. "Everything is different for a road course."

Everything also is different for a trip to Mexico.

While marketing gurus are hailing Sunday's race as a milestone for stock-car racing, many inside the garage area wonder if it's worth the effort. To make it happen, many teams had to build special cars, rent new haulers or stay behind an extra day in California to get cars ready.

"It's a pain in the butt is what it is,"driver David Stremme said.

NASCAR is sending a couple thousand team members to a country where Americans are being targeted for kidnapping and murder. Race organizers already have warned teams not to leave their hotels or the raceway. It's a message some members from Richard Childress Racing won't have to be told twice.

Six members of the crew who tested with driver Jeff Burton in February were extorted out of more than $750 the night before their return flight home.

They ordered six beers at a local bar and were told the tab was $750. Their decision was simple: Either pay the money, face time in a Mexican jail or, even worse, get shot by local thugs.

The Childress bunch now has team orders to stay inside their hotel rooms. The team also has local bodyguards under contract.

Mike Dillon, a team manager for Childress, said he's still eager to go.

"It's going to be good for the sport to go down there," he said. "I just hope everyone comes back safe."

The Mexican government is getting a nice cut of the action, charging each transporter more than $3,000 for insurance.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.