NASCAR Cup Series
Max Gutierrez honors late brother in emotional Truck Series return
NASCAR Cup Series

Max Gutierrez honors late brother in emotional Truck Series return

Updated Mar. 8, 2023 6:40 p.m. ET

Max Gutierrez wore a necklace with his brother's photo on it. He also had photos on the dashboard and the rear bumper of his truck Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Max needed his brother's spirit with him as he made his fifth career truck start.

Fico Gutierrez, 17, died in a Jan. 29 highway accident in Mexico, an accident that left 20-year-old Max with a broken left ankle and a huge emotional scar.

"[The recent weeks] were difficult for sure," Max Gutierrez said prior to the race last Friday. "All of the family have been trying to find a positive way to handle this. And we find it — and that's why we are here. We are trying to do the next step.


"It's good to be back."

Gutierrez raced in honor of his brother, who also was a race car driver. Max Gutierrez finished 21st in the race, the first time he had competed on the Vegas track.

"It is going to be an experience that I'm going to remember my whole 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 speaks with FOX Sports' Jamie Little about his decision to return to racing and about honoring his brother, Fico, in Las Vegas.

His ankle was taped up, but he felt that if he could race then 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 me and my brother were trying to reach — his plan was to race against me in the NASCAR Cup Series.

"That was our plan. I was going to do everything I can to reach that goal for him and for me."

Much of the Gutierrez family came to the race from Mexico for a race that they hoped would be cathartic. 

"We were planning to do it in Daytona, but with the circumstances and injuries, we couldn't do Daytona," Gutierrez said. "With Las Vegas, I'm super happy. All my family — my dad and sister — they are here."

But most importantly, he felt his brother was with him, too.

"He's going to be next to me and enjoy the ride and help me to stay out of trouble," Gutierrez said. "He's next to me in my seat.

"He's going to be there the whole time. ... He was my little brother, and he was my best friend, too."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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