April 21, 2008 9:53 AM

Teenager Braun Earns Pole for Mexico City Nationwide Race

MEXICO CITY -- During a recent road-course test, reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Carl Edwards was stunned -- and more than a little embarrassed -- to have his best lap time soundly beaten by 19-year-old Colin Braun.

Puzzled, he turned to fellow driver Boris Said and asked what Braun was doing to top Edwards' time by an entire second.

Said, a noted road-course expert himself, faced Edwards and replied: "He's the best I've ever seen."

Braun, driving a Roush Fenway Racing Ford, backed up that assertion on Saturday afternoon, posting a lap of 102.756 mph to take the pole for Sunday's Corona Mexico 200 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course.

Despite attempting to make just his third career Nationwide race and having to qualify for the event based on his speed, Braun beat out a talented field of series regulars and road-course aces -- including favorite Scott Pruett -- for the top spot.

Braun is a rookie in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he is 20th in points. But road-course racing is his true area of expertise, and the former Grand-Am driver could see his biggest spotlight yet in Mexico City.

"I just think he's unbelievable," Edwards said. "I believe he is the guy to beat [Sunday] in this race."

Responded Braun: "I'm sure I'll be getting an invoice in the mail from Boris and Carl here pretty soon to say those good things about me. I don't know how much the pole pays, but I hope it's enough to cover that."

Pruett -- fastest in Friday's final practice session -- was second at 102.651 mph after his Chip Ganassi Racing team over-adjusted on the car in an attempt to loosen it up.

"Unfortunately, I just couldn't drive the car the way I wanted to," Pruett said.

Edwards was third, followed by Marcos Ambrose and Said.

Kyle Busch, winner of two consecutive Nationwide Series events, was sixth-fastest. Patrick Carpentier, points leader Clint Bowyer, Jason Keller and Antonio Perez -- the highest-qualifying Mexican driver -- rounded out the top 10.

Qualifying was more dramatic than on oval tracks, thanks to a European-style format that placed six cars on the track at one time. The cars were grouped by their speeds from the final practice, with the pole swapping hands eight times -- including twice in the final group -- and was not decided until Pruett's second lap was beaten by Braun's just seconds later.

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