DANIEL SUAREZ/No.3 won the wild and wooly NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway, with a Margin of Victory of 0.097 seconds ahead of RODRIGO PERALTA/No.24, definitely one of the series closest finishes. The closest was a 0.041 in Mexico City last year.
Finishing third was a disappointed ANTONIO PEREZ/No.1, behind Peralta – the defending Series Champion.
Suarez, 2010 Rookie of the Year, took the lead early on from pole sitter RUBEN PARDO/No.15, who was black flagged for a loose door. Suarez led until he pitted on Lap 46, where he picked up a speeding ticket. He then charged from from the back of the field, through the pack until he was P8 on Lap 67, P5 on Lap 74, P3 on Lap 95 and then P2 on Lap 101.
Suarez dogged leader Perez, running nose to tail for the remaining 19 laps, with Perez ably holding off Suarez until Turn Two of the White Flag lap. Then Suarez made his daring move, which then opened the door for Peralta also to pass Perez.
This was the fourth consecutive Touring Car Series victory for Suarez, and sixth overall. Suarez in part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program, and the NASCAR NEXT Program. He also competes full time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he leads the points standings. The last time a NASCAR driver led two series concurrently was 2009 – KYLE BUSCH who led the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series.
Suarez said “It was an amazing way to open the season. All my hard work was paying off, and I feel now that I’m known.”
Fourth and fifth were LUIS FELIPE MONTANO/No.87 and pole sitter PARDO.
Sixth through tenth were JOSE LUIS RAMIREZ/No.5, RUBEN GARCIA Jr/No.88, RAFAEL MARTINEZ/No.18, FREDDY TAME Jr./No.8 and MARIO DOMINGUEZ/No.19, former CART driver making his stock car debut.
Regarding his last lap, Suarez said that Perez was a very good driver, a very good friend, and a very good teammate. I’m happy for him, and it wasn’t my intention to move him. I just tried my best in Turn Two, and I was sideways by Turn Four.”
Suarez did doughnuts upon taking the victory, and then did in his car, which had to be pushed to the garage – but not before Suarez climbed on top and acknowledged the crowd with a Kyle Busch-style bow – which Suarez said was purposeful. On his driver’s door is his name and blood type – A+. Maybe that’s his race grade also.
Suarez purposely chose the number #3 for his car and is aware of its heritage. He’s proud to wear the number on his car.
Peralta was running the Phoenix track for the first time. He said “It was a difficult race, but I’m glad to have this finish.”
Perez, 2008 Series Champion, was runner-up at last year’s PIR race, but that finish wasn’t as disappointing as this one. Last year he didn’t have the best car and he was playing catch-up to ABRAHAM CALDERONE. Perez said he was a little bit frustrated by his finish this time, as he felt he was the fastest car out there and led the most laps. But he’s moving on and looking forward to the next race.
Twenty-two of the thirty starters finished the race, with eleven on the lead lap. Six cautions punctuated the 120-lap race.
The weather was still mild, in mid-seventies, by the 9pm finish; but the breeze definitely picked up at the start of the race to 16 mph.
The race was shown live on Deportes Telemundo, a first for NASCAR and the Mexico-based series.
The Second Round of the series will be 5 April 2014 at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.