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Max Gutiérrez wore a necklace with his brother’s photo. He also had photos on the dashboard and rear bumper of his truck Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Max needed his brother’s spirit with him as he began his fifth truck race.
Fico Gutiérrez, 17, died on January 29 in a car accident in Mexico, an accident that left Max, 20, with a broken left ankle and a huge emotional scar.
“[The recent weeks] They were definitely difficult,” Max Gutierrez said before the race last Friday. “The whole family has been trying to find a positive way to handle it. And we find it, and that’s why we’re here. We are trying to take the next step.
“It’s good to be back.”
Gutierrez ran in honor of his brother, who was also a race car driver. Max Gutierrez finished 21st in the race, the first time he had raced at the Las Vegas track.
“It will be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
It would have been easy for Gutierrez to skip the event, the only truck race he currently has sponsorship for this year driving for AM Racing. But he wanted to race in honor of his brother, whose logo adorned the hood of his car.
An emotional return
Max Gutierrez talks to FOX Sports’ Jamie Little about his decision to return to racing and honoring his brother, Fico, in Las Vegas.
His ankle was stuck, but he figured if he could run, he should get back behind the wheel.
“I want to race,” said Gutierrez, who won the 2021 ARCA East race at New Smyrna Speedway. “It was a dream that my brother and I were trying to achieve — his plan was to race against me in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“That was our plan. I was going to do everything I could to achieve that goal for him and for me.”
Much of the Gutierrez family came to the race from Mexico for what they hoped would be a cathartic race.
“We were planning to do it at Daytona, but with the circumstances and the injuries, we couldn’t do Daytona,” Gutierrez said. “With Vegas, I’m very happy. All my family, my father and my sister, are here.”
But most importantly, he felt that his brother was with him as well.
“He’ll be by my side and enjoy the ride and help me stay out of trouble,” Gutierrez said. “It’s in my seat next to me.
“He’ll be there all the time. … He was my little brother, and he was also my best friend.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.
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