The pathway to success in stock car racing is a variable, winding road. Most wouldn’t consider Mexico City to be the starting point of that pathway, but Max Gutierrez is working to prove that it can be.
Gutierrez, a talented 18-year-old driver for Rette Jones Racing, made his debut in the ARCA Menards Series platform last season, finishing 14th at Bristol and then 12th at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. Nothing overly impressive, but he was running at the finish of both races and gained valuable experience and knowledge to build on for 2021.
He put that experience to good use in the ARCA Menards Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway. Gutierrez stayed in contention throughout the 175-lap event, and when a pair of late-race restarts jumbled the field, found himself in third position headed into turn three on the final lap. Leader Taylor Gray felt the bumper from second-place Sammy Smith into the final corners, and both drifted up the racetrack leaving the bottom groove wide open. Gutierrez jumped on the opportunity and slipped underneath, and with all three cars touching at the start-finish line Gutierrez flashed across first to claim the win by less than a foot.
“The two cars were battling for first and they opened the door,” Gutierrez said. “In Mexico it happens a lot, the two cars battling for the win crash. When I saw them battling I said ‘thanks for opening the door’ and I turned under them and won the race. Going into turn three I was thinking it was going to be a good day, we’d finish third and have a lot of good experience. But by the time we got to turn four I was thinking we are going to win.”
While the win came in surprising fashion on that night, that Gutierrez ended up in victory lane shouldn’t be a surprise at all. His background is filled with success, ranging from six Super Kart championships to seven victories in the NASCAR Mexico Challenge Series, culminating with a series championship in 2020. His goals for this season remain unchanged, even with all of that previous success and an ARCA Menards Series East win already in his pocket.
“I want to keep learning as much as I can,” he said. “It wouldn’t be possible without all of the people behind me who make it possible. There are a lot of people who have helped on this project and we are always just looking forward to the next race. The cars I raced in Mexico were very different so we are always going to be learning. We want to focus on the next race, keep learning, and gain experience on all of these new tracks.”
If Gutierrez is able to recapture the magic from New Smyrna and score his second victory of the season in Saturday’s Crosley Record Pressing Music City 200, he would be the first driver of Mexican descent to win at Nashville since Rogelio Lopez pulled it off in 2008.
Saturday’s Crosley Record Pressing Music City 200 is set to go green at 9:30 pm ET/8:30 pm local and will be streamed live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. Practice is scheduled for 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm local, with General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5:15 pm ET/4:15 pm local time. Saturday’s racing program also features a pair of 100-lap feature events for super late models and pro late models. For more event information, including live timing and scoring, please visit ARCARacing.com. For ticket information, please visit TrackEnterprises.com.
Story – Charles Kroll, ARCA Menards Series
Photo – Adam Glanzman