Ruben Pardo earned his first NASCAR Mexico Series win at Phoenix International Raceway in the Toyota 120 on Friday. After starting on the pole, Pardo fell as low as 12th but fought back to the front in the late stages. He averaged 81.807 mph for the 120-lap contest and finished .357 of a second ahead of teammate Luis Felipe Montano with Hugo Oliveras in third. The top three finishers are all teammates at HO Speed Racing, a team owned by Oliveras.
“I can tell everybody that I am very happy for me, my team,” said Pardo, who notched his fourth career series win. “We did an awesome job. We placed 1 through 3 for the HO Speed Racing. I want to say thanks to all my crew, the crew chief, all the guys, all the people who came to see this race, my girlfriend, and all the people that have supported me throughout my career. All my sponsors. I am very excited to start the first race with a victory.”
The winning owner was also pleased.
“I think it was a lot of hard work went into all these cars,” Oliveras said, “a lot of hard work over the winter months not a lot of people see. I think it is a great way to start the season. I have two of the best drivers here in the series. Great way to start the season.”
Rounding out the top six, all of whom battled for the lead late in the race, were fourth place Rogelio Lopez, fifth place Jose Luis Ramirez, and Abraham Calderon, winner of the inaugural NASCAR Mexico Series race at PIR in 2013.
Pardo led the first 57 laps before giving up the lead to Lopez. Pardo and Lopez battled back and forth for the lead most of the race.
There were six cautions, including a multi-car wreck on Lap 1. Two early challengers, Ruben Rovelo and Rodrigo Peralta, had problems and did not finish the race. Rovelo hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 34, and Peralta’s engine started to fail at Lap 75. Thirteen cars finished on the lead lap.
Calderon fell off the pace and had to pit on lap 34 for a flat right side tire, but fought back and took the lead from Pardo on lap 87. Calderon led for five circuits until Pardo reclaimed the top spot on lap 92. Pardo built a lead of nearly second and led the final 28 laps, though Montano closed the gap in the final few miles. Manuel Gutierrez, who started 28th and last, gambled on pit strategy and finished a solid ninth.