04 March 2007

The good ol' boys roll into Mexico City

The left-hand-turn circuit (Nascar) comes to Mexico City this weekend for a Busch Series race - on a track that doesn't just feature left-hand turns. And based a successful 2005 debut, expectations for this year's event are high - especially with former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya participating. A number of drivers apparently expressed reservations about running the inaugural race, but according to an ESPN.com story, the only unhappy campers this year were "the merchandise haulers that follow stock car drivers around the Busch and Nextel Cup series [who] aren't quite comfortable making the trip to Mexico City."

A member of Montoya's team jokingly noted that while the Colombian driver's stuff was possibly selling well outside of the race track, "nothing licensed" was being moved. (There's nothing like an army of tianguis vendors hawking pirated merchandise to spoil the party.)

Vendors aside, Mexico City makes an odd stop for auto racing with its elevation (2,200 meters) and distance from Nascar's heartland, but it is the second-largest city in the world and with Nascar increasingly reaching out to a non-good-ol-boy crowd, the Mexican capital is a logical stop.

The race also reflects the growing importance of the Mexican market to U.S. professional sports organizations. The PGA Tours just staged an event near Cancun last week - its first tournament in Mexico. The LPGA, piggybacking on Guadalajara golfer Lorena Ochoa's success, now has two Mexicans stops and the NFL drew more than 100,000 fans to Estadio Azteca for a regular season tilt between two struggling teams in 2005. Look for this trend to continue, although talk of putting an NFL or MLB franchise is just that: talk - at least for now.

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