In just his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, Max Gutiérrez showed some muscle in the closing laps of Friday’s Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Prior to the 150-lap contest, Nashville marked the third straight race Austin Wayne Self wasn’t behind the wheel of the No. 22 AM Racing Chevrolet.
Two weeks ago, the team didn’t enter a truck at Sonoma as he and his wife Jennifer were expecting a child. Following the birth of Zepplyn Jane, Brett Moffitt piloted the No. 22 at Knoxville last Saturday. Fast forward to this weekend, it was Gutiérrez’s turn as it started his double duty effort across the United States and Mexico.
Gutiérrez was 31st fastest out of the 42 trucks that entered. However, he and Trey Hutchens had their qualifying times disallowed after failing to meet heights. Unlike Hutchens, the No. 22 AM Racing squad had enough owner points to make the field as Gutiérrez rolled off 36th.
For any young competitor trying to climb the racing ranks, starting from the rear is an insurmountable task. But for the 2021 New Smyrna winner, working through the field worked out in his favor by staying out of the Friday night madness.
As the laps were winding down and a few front running trucks had their nights ended, Gutiérrez found his way into the top-15.
But, in the midst of his progress, drama escalated.
On the penultimate restart, Hailie Deegan was in front of Gutiérrez until the two tangled, darting Deegan into Colby Howard.
As has been the theme all season, luck wasn’t on Deegan’s side as she went from a promising top-15 to finishing 28th.
Gutiérrez felt that Deegan lifted on the restart. That’s when spotter and former series winner Tony Raines replied.
“Hey, don’t sweat it. It happens, man,” Raines exclaimed over the radio.
Gutiérrez certainly didn’t sweat it in the final 10 laps as he restarted in 12th. From there, business picked up and he climbed his way up to seventh. With less than five to go, he nearly lost all of his efforts after battling with Christian Eckes for sixth in turn 3.
Gutiérrez would save his truck but would lose seventh to Tyler Ankrum.
Despite the wobble, Gutiérrez brought AM Racing a top-10 finish but more importantly, his first top-10 on the NASCAR national touring level. Joining the likes of Carlos Contreras, Germán Quiroga and Daniel Suárez as the only drivers from Mexico to score a top-10s in the Camping World Truck Series.
A key factor of finishing in the top-10 this early in his Truck Series career came down to learning and eliminating any potential mistakes after his debut at Charlotte two months ago.
“Since the first race at Charlotte. I learned as much as I can with the draft and other drivers. Now here at Nashville, it was prefect for us,” said Gutiérrez. “In practice, we were learning the track. In qualifying, it went good for us until the issue. In the race, it was perfect.
“We didn’t make so many mistakes and that’s why we were inside the top-10. I’m very happy and thankful for our sponsors. I’m super happy and in four hours, I have a plan to go back to Mexico and have another race on Sunday.”
Gutiérrez will head to Guadalajara to race at the Trióvalo Internacional de Cajititlán, site to the fourth round of the NASCAR Mexico Series campaign.
After three races, Gutiérrez currently sits eighth in points with two top-10s to his name with a fourth-place finish in Chiapas being his best thus far.
This article has been edited for clarity by Taylor Kitchen.