Mexico's Goeters wins pole in first Busch race

Saturday, March 5th 2005, 4:47 pm
By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Jorge Goeters made sure NASCAR's first weekend in Mexico was a success.

Mexico's Jorge Goeters stunned the field and thrilled the hometown fans Saturday when he topped qualifying for Sunday's Telmex-Motorola 200, edging Nextel Cup veteran Robbie Gordon.

``It was really cool to see that guy get the pole, to see all the fans going crazy with the air horns going,'' said defending series champ Martin Truex Jr., who was third-fastest. ``I don't think they'd have done that for me.''

It was good news for NASCAR, adding to local interest in a race that it hopes will help hail the start of an enduring relationship with fans in Mexico and with Hispanic fans in the United States.

``As far as Busch qualifying, I don't think we've ever had this many people at the track,'' Truex said. NASCAR did not have an official attendance mark.

Goeters called it ``the happiest day of my life'' after his No. 66 Ford dropped Gordon to second on the 2.518-mile road course.

Goeters didn't have long to enjoy it, though. He was also starting on the pole alongside his brother Patrick in Saturday's Corona Challenge race, a local stock car league that NASCAR hopes will eventually become a local development series.

The 34-year-old Goeters has won Mexican titles in trucks (2002), Mustangs (1997), sport prototypes and tractor trucks (both in 1996).

But even in Mexico City, he's been overshadowed by a half-dozen other drivers, such as Fernandez, Busch Series rookie Michel Jourdain Jr. and Champ Car driver Mario Dominguez.

Gordon said he had been told that he would have to drop to the back of the pack due to an engine change after practice on Friday. But NASCAR officials said later he could start in the front row because the change came before qualifying.

He expected the slick, winding track to produce a lot of yellow flags on race day: ``I'm going to take a number and say 12.''

``We're going to run three laps and we're going to have a caution. We're going to run five laps and we're going to have a caution.''

Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was third-fastest, followed by road race specialists Boris Said and Ron Fellows.

Even the drivers who know the track best were having trouble staying on course.

Fernandez had a session-best practice lap on Friday, but spoiled a torrid lap by sliding wide on the sixth turn and banging into a wall.

Jourdain recovered from a nasty practice crash and battled his oval-track backup car around the course to qualify.