By: Ashley McCubbin
When Max Gutierrez climbed from his car in victory lane at the ARCA East Series opener at New Smyrna Speedway, there was one big question everyone was asking – Who is he, and where’d he come from?
While not familiar within the United States racing scene, Gutierrez has certainly written a career for himself to date south of the border. He won six karting championships, before winning seven races in the NASCAR Mexico Challenge Series (pre-step before NASCAR Mexico Series) and the title in 2020.
“So the cars (Mexico to ARCA) – they have not too much difference,” Gutierrez told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “The only difference I feel is the horsepower; the Mexico car has between 450 and 500, and the ARCA series are more powerful – 700 horsepower. That’s a big difference, and the tires we used are different so they change the feeling of the car. That’s the only difference I noticed.”
The success brought forth the opportunity to race in ARCA East for Rette Jones Racing, where he made two starts last season with a best finish of 12th.
Going into New Smyrna Speedway this year, the thought process was on continuing to learn and develop. Of course, though, a strong surge from sixth to third following the late-race rain flag began to change the plan.
“On that last restart, I said, ‘Okay, it’s my first time here, first race, so third position is a very good one,'” he recalled. “But then the first two cars were battling for first place and they opened the door and I saw the opportunity. I know in Mexico it happens a lot that both cars crash and the car that’s behind passes with no problem. So I give them their space when they were battling.
“I just see enough space to go through it, and said, ‘Okay, let’s try it.’ I said thank you for the opportunity and opening the door and won the race.”
With having exceeded expectations already this year, it’d be easy to assume the goals have now changed entering 5 Flags Speedway this weekend, as well as the rest of 2021. However, that is not the case.
“We want to still focus on the next race,” Guiterrez explained. “It was just one race that we won so let’s keep learning, keep taking it one race at a time. So I think the goal for this year is to keep learning as much as we can and gain experience at those kind of tracks, and if we can, get the Rookie of the Year.”
Despite being a rookie, he does have some laps under his belt at the Pennscola, Florida track as it was one of the two events the team elected to run, producing the aforementioned 12th-place finish.
“We are going to try to do our best,” he said. “We will try to express ourselves better with our crew chief and as a team. Also, our qualifying effort at New Smyrna was very good so try to be top-three in qualifying, and then in the race, try to have fun and stay in the top-five.”
If the success continues, there’s a very good chance he could follow in the footsteps of Daniel Suarez.
“He is obviously one of my heroes, doing well flying the Mexico flag,” he commented. “Just trying to do our best and in five years, try to already be racing in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and maybe Cup Series if it’s possible – but I’m trying to follow in his footsteps.”