AVONDALE, Ariz. – The sprint format of the Toyota 120 suited Abraham Calderón just fine.
Given 75 laps to get it done, the 24-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, jumped out front early and paced the field en route to his first career victory on an historic night for the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series. Friday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway was the first race for one of NASCAR’s international touring series in the United States.
“It was a great car. It’s my first victory and it’s such an honor to have it here,” said Calderón in the post-race press conference, which was conducted in Spanish and translated to English. “Everyone worked hard to make this a possibility. I want to thank Phoenix International Raceway for this opportunity to be here.
“I hope going forward I can keep providing these kinds of results. It’s all about the championship, being able to hoist the championship trophy at the end of the season. This is a good start and I’m looking forward to that.”
The 2013 season is the seventh for the Mexico series with NASCAR. Friday’s race was the first of 15 points races of the season.
Calderón entered the night winless in his first 80 starts, but quickly took advantage of leaders’ misfortunes to get out front.
Defending series champion Jorge Goeters won the pole position earlier Friday, but quickly ran into trouble. Contact among the leaders on the first turn of the first lap ended Goeters’ hopes of winning and handed the lead to Homero Richards.
Calderón started fifth and moved past Richards on Lap 14. He never relinquished the lead.
“It means a lot back home,” Calderón said. “Everyone knows how difficult it is to compete here in the United States, how difficult it is to compete with NASCAR on these tracks at this level.”
Former champion Antonio Pérez finished second, followed by 17-year-old Rubén García Jr. Garcia was the series’ 2012 rookie of the year.
Rubén Pardo finished fourth and Homero Richards fifth. Carlos Peralta was sixth, followed by Patrick Goeters, Irwin Vences, Jorge Goeters and Hugo Oliveras.
The 75-lap race – 120 kilometers – as a different format for the series’ drivers. A majority of the series races are 200 kilometers. In addition, they ran the first 50 laps before a break set up the final sprint. The race was delayed for 10 minutes during the final laps for a red flag to fix a SAFER barrier after a single car hit the wall.