Abraham Calderon scores NASCAR Mexico win at Phoenix

Leave a comment

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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”