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Motor sports: Quiroga seeks win north of border

Profile image for By Matt Crider / Staff Writer
By Matt Crider / Staff Writer

Texas Motor Speedway notebook

FORT WORTH — Like any professional athlete, German Quiroga has goals. Some of them involve doing something that hasn’t been done before.

The path to reaching those objectives led Quiroga to Denton County on a warm afternoon in late April.

“My main goal is to be the first Mexican to win on an oval in a national division of NASCAR,” Quiroga said while preparing for a test session at Texas Motor Speedway, where he will race tonight in the WinStar World Casino 400K.

“We’ve been competitive in three out of four races,” the Camping World Truck Series driver said during the April 29 test. “We want to be even stronger. We’re going to try many, many things.

“We are pushing hard to find more speed.”

Quiroga’s two teammates at Red Horse Racing have the experience necessary to help him improve. Timothy Peters has been in the truck series since 2005 and was runner-up for the championship last season. John Wes Townley has made 79 starts in the Nationwide and truck series dating to 2008.

“He’s been awesome,” Peters said of Quiroga. “It’s been fun to have a new teammate and to learn how he grew up in racing versus how I grew up in racing.”

Quiroga got his first taste of American NASCAR racing in 2007 when he made a Nationwide Series start in Mexico City.

“We were pretty decent,” Quiroga said. “We led [nine] laps. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish that well.”

Quiroga wound up 28th that day in Jay Robinson’s No. 28 Chevrolet — two weeks after Pilot Point resident Robert Richardson Jr. drove the same car to a 28th-placefinish at Daytona in his Nationwide debut.

Quiroga went on to start five NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races that season, but he was just getting warmed up at home.

In 2009, Quiroga won the first of three consecutive championships in the NASCAR Toyota Series, the top stock car circuit in Mexico. He said he finished second in the standings twice before breaking through to win the title.

“My goal was to get into Indy cars,” Quiroga said. “We couldn’t afford it. There were already three, four Mexicans racing in the series, so it was tough to get sponsorship.”

So Quiroga stuck with stock cars, but he wasn’t content.

“I was not happy anymore. I would win, and I would have that feeling that you need to keep on going,” Quiroga said. “So I decided to put my expectations higher.”

That meant a move to Charlotte, N.C., and a switch to racing pickup trucks.

He ran two truck races late in the 2011 season and four at the end of 2012, all for Kyle Busch Motorsports. His best finish was eighth last fall at Talladega, and a blown engine relegated him to 28th in his Fort Worth debut a few weeks later.

This season he’s driving the No. 77 Toyota for Red Horse.

“Our goal is to complete the full season so we can compete for Rookie of the Year,” he said. “I’m the new guy, new colors, new number that’s starting to run in the top 10.

“They have to know me, the other drivers, so we have to make friends.”

His best finish this season is 11th at Kansas, and he was 13th last week at Dover.

“Rockingham was the only race we were way off the pace,” Quiroga said. “We’re going to keep trying, and that’s why we came to Texas to test.”

Quiroga said he has sponsorship lined up for 13 of the series’ 22 races, and funding is part of his long-term plans as well.

“We want to get to the point where we have enough sponsorship to get to the Cup cars,” Quiroga said. “We have a plan to be [there] within five years.”

Making it to the Sprint Cup Series would put him on par with countrymen Memo Rojas of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and Formula One’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez. All of them have raced with backing from companies associated with Telmex.

“I can say we are like teammates, although they are Formula One,” Quiroga said. “In Mexico, F1 is very popular.

“We are the drivers on a team that’s trying to make successful careers.”

Quiroga likely will be a little more in his comfort zone later this season when the trucks run on a road course for the first time since 2000. They will head north to Bowmanville, Ontario, to the track commonly known as Mosport.

“That’s one of the tracks for sure we know we’re going to be strong,” Quiroga said.

Quiroga drove on a number of road and street courses when he tested Indy cars several years ago.

“I was wishing that the road course was one of those,” Quiroga said. “From what I’ve seen on YouTube, it’s a very interesting track.”

He added that Mosport seems “a bit narrow for these kinds of cars.”

Before that, however, he’ll face an entirely new challenge when the series stages its first dirt race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

“That’s going to be a tough one,” Quiroga said. “I haven’t raced ever on dirt.”

Peters, his veteran teammate, said “the mix-up in the schedule is going to be cool.”

“It’s going to be different,” Peters said. “You’d better get ready for it. The show will go on with or without you.”

Cowtown Kanaan

Tony Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago on his 12th attempt. In 2004, he won in Fort Worth on his third try.

At 3:30 p.m. today he will qualify for Saturday night’s Firestone 550K. In 13 starts at TMS, Kanaan has 10 top-eight finishes and a worst finish of 14th. But he has other reasons to enjoy his annual visit.

The Brazilian has raced for much of his career with sponsorship from North Texas companies such as 7-Eleven and Mouser Electronics.

He also recently purchased two Texas bucking bulls that he named Downforce and Brazilan Bully. He said they are very young and not competing in rodeos yet.

“If they don’t do well, we’re going to eat them,” Kanaan said last week during an appearance at Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant. “We can make a huge barbecue out of them.

“Since they live here in Texas, I think they should come to the race.”

Kanaan said the bulls are so young that he has not met them in person yet. He said sensors are used to measure their bucking ability before any cowboys get on their backs.

“He’s still doing his qualifying laps,” Kanaan said. “And if he doesn’t qualify he’s going to go to the barbecue.”

MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.