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.
The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
While Ricciardo has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, Verstappen has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.
Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win
Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.
“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”
The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.
“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
He added, “Ideally, I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”
Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.
“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”
Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max
Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.
Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.
“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.
However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.
“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. “That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”
In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.
Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor
Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.
“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.
Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like a miracle,” he said. “(The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.
“I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”