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Jeff Burton checks out new track



Published: Thu, January 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



NASCAR is hoping a race will create higher interest among Hispanics.

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- NASCAR driver Jeff Burton roared around Mexico City's winding road course Wednesday in a test for the first points race outside the United States in 50 years.

"It seems like there's 30 corners back there," Burton said after taking the first few laps in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. "It never stops. You mess up one of those and you mess up all the rest."

The Nextel Cup driver was helping teams figure out the braking, shifting and gearing needed for the Busch series race March 6.

Burton was chosen by NASCAR because he won't be in the race. The sanctioning body believes a Busch driver might have gained an advantage by testing.

To accommodate the stock cars, organizers made a few changes to the Hermanos Rodriguez course used for Champ Car races.

Potential for excitement

Notably, a chicane was added to the long front straightaway to cut speeds heading into the sharp first turn. The Busch series will race on a 21/2-mile course, two-tenths of a mile shorter than the Champ Car distance.

Burton said the wide, complicated track offers lots of chances for passing.

"The layout provides more opportunities to make mistakes, which will allow more opportunities to pass, and that's something we've struggled with on the road courses in the U.S.," he said. "It is a bumpy race track at places where you would prefer it wasn't bumpy, but that's part of the challenge."

Mexico City and Watkins Glen, N.Y, will be the only road courses on the Busch series schedule this season. Some teams will build new cars for the races while others will modify existing short-track vehicles to alter the left-turn bias normally used.

"It requires a whole different car, a whole different suspension package," Burton said. "It's a completely different car than what we normally run."

He was driving the No. 21 car likely to be shared by Brandon Miller and Kevin Harvick.

Not everyone happy

The race is aimed at creating greater interest in the sport among Hispanics. What might help most is the inclusion of former Mexican Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain Jr., a first-year Busch racer.

NASCAR got an early taste of one Mexico City tradition -- demonstrations -- when about 75 people blocked the track for about three hours to protest the cutting of trees and reduction of neighborhood recreation spaces during the track modifications.

The track cuts through eastern Mexico City's most important recreation area.

Recent Champ Car races have drawn three-day weekend crowds of 300,000 to 400,000, but organizer Federico Alaman expects a smaller total for the two-day program of NASCAR's second-tier series. The track seats 80,000 with room for tens of thousands more in the infield.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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