MEXICO CITY - When NASCAR slipped Sunday's Telcel-Motorola 200 for the Busch Series into a rare open weekend for the Nextel Cup Series, the organization thought it would get plenty of support from the senior circuit.
What it wasn't expecting was overwhelming interest from Mexican drivers.
While the first race outside the United States in Busch Series history won't have a lot of star power from the Nextel Cup division, it should be wildly popular with the local fans who idolize their sports stars.
Only six full-time Nextel Cup drivers - Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Rusty Wallace, Carl Edwards, Elliott Sadler and Robby Gordon - are scheduled to compete Sunday (3 p.m., Fox-Ch. 54), while 11 Mexican drivers will compete for one of 43 spots in the starting lineup.
Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain and Mara Reyes are three of the best-known drivers from Mexico who will be at the 2.786-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course.
"In Formula One, we had a winner. In IRL, we had a winner. In CART, we had a winner. It's important we have a winner in NASCAR, too," said Carlos Jalife, sports editor for Mexico City's newspaper, The Record.
According to NASCAR, there are 51 teams entered in this week's race. While the Nextel Cup drivers are best-known among American stock-car fans and the Mexican drivers are best known among the local fans, the best-known road course drivers are Boris Said, of California, and Ron Fellows, of Canada.
SPEED TOLERANCE: After hitting 14 cars with speeding penalties at the season-opening Daytona 500, NASCAR told teams they will have a 5-mph tolerance starting with last Sunday's race. The result: only three speeding tickets.
The new system will take into account any differences in the car's tachometer, which can give varying readings depending on the air pressures associated with traffic on pit road.
When a driver is caught speeding - the maximum speed at the California Speedway was 55 mph - he is forced to drive down pit road again at or slower than the posted speed limit.
FORD'S NEW CAR: Ford Motor Co. will have a new car for the Nextel and Busch series next year.
The car company will submit a plan by July 1 for a car to replace the Ford Taurus. NASCAR requires the proposal to be approved by Sept. 1 if the company hopes to use it for the next season.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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