On the biggest stage that the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series has ever had, Abraham Calderon notched his breakthrough victory.
Calderon, 24, of Monterrey, Mexico, took the lead early on in Friday night’s Toyota 120k at Phoenix International Raceway and held on to it to claim his first career win in NASCAR Mexico’s inaugural event in the United States.
He had to withstand a final restart with 10 laps to go following a short red flag period due to Hector Aguirre hitting the wall on Lap 61 of 75 — an incident that also forced a quick repair to PIR’s SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. But Calderon, the class of the field, managed to pull away from runner-up Antonio Perez (the brother of McLaren F1 racer Sergio Perez) and take the checkered flag in his 81st career start.
As you’d expect from a first-time winner, Calderon celebrated with vigor. Following a series of burnouts on the front-stretch that wound up cooking the motor on his World Baseball Classic-backed Toyota, he hopped on the roof and laid across it briefly before standing up to bow several times to the crowd.
“It’s amazing,” a jubilant Calderon told MRN Radio in PIR’s Victory Lane (after, according to NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello, he and his car were pushed there by a tow truck). “I can’t believe it…I can’t even describe it in words.”
NASCAR Mexico’s big night began rather inauspiciously with a multi-car incident on the first turn of the first lap that involved pole sitter Jorge Goeters. All involved continued on, however, and after a restart, Calderon began to creep closer to front row starter Homero Richards before taking the lead from him at Lap 14.
Calderon proceeded to dominate the rest of the opening 50-lap segment of the race and, following a 10-minute break for teams to service their cars, led the entirety of the 25-lap closing segment.