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Best of 2014: Mexico Series

Calderón's Star Shines Brightest During Desafío
By John Tejeda, NASCAR
December 26, 2014 - 2:13pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In 2014, Mexico's premier motorsports series was once again home to some of the most exciting NASCAR racing around the globe as the NASCAR Mexico Series wrapped up its eighth year under the NASCAR banner. From the season-opener at Phoenix International Raceway to the intense finale at Puebla, Mexico's Autódromo Miguel E. Abed, the year was a constant showcase by the series' drivers of the passion-fueled racing taking place south of the U.S. border.

Seven different drivers won a race during the 15-race calendar, but it was the year-long consistency and timely racing of Abraham Calderón that rose above all, helping the Monterrey, Mexico, native claim his first championship and fifth series crown for Telcel Racing.

Calderón's championship wrapped up another strong year for the series in which nine different venues held at least one series event, including two races at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. The famed track in the nation's capital, which played host to the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 2005-08, will be closed for repairs and upgrades throughout most of the 2015 season and has hosted at least one series event since 2004.

Top Driver

Abraham Calderón - The 26-year-old began 2014, his first full season with Telcel with a 12th place finish in the Toyota 120 at Phoenix. He then went on a stretch where he finished inside the top 10 in six of nine events, including a runner-up finish in Mexico City and a fifth-place effort at Aguascalientes. He ranked sixth through the 10-race regular season, but took his racing to another level during the Desafío. Calderón opened the playoffs with three top fives, including two runner-up finishes in Chihuahua and Aguascalientes. He capped the five-race sprint for the championship with a pair of seventh-place efforts, finishing nine points ahead the rest of the field en route to the series crown.

VIDEO: Abraham Calderón's acceptance speech at NASCAR Touring Series Night of Champions 

Daniel Suárez (honorable mention) - The Monterrey native began the year as the hottest NASCAR driver in the sport, winning the season opener just two weeks after back-to-back wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway and the Battle at the Beach in Daytona. He would go on to win five Mexico Series races on the year and seemed poised to claim his first championship before a broken rear axle in the penultimate race of the season knocked him back in the standings, ruining his goal of winning the title before heading to the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015 as a full-time driver with Joe Gibbs Racing.

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Monterrey's Abraham Calderón lifted the NASCAR Mexico Series championship trophy at Puebla. Courtesy NASCAR Mexico Series 

Comeback Driver Of The Year

Rubén Pardo - After being locked out of Victory Lane throughout the entire 2013 season, Pardo returned to his winning ways this season, scoring  two wins on the year to compliment his six top fives and 10 top 10s. The Mexico City driver won the Queretana 200 on May 25th to earn his first victory since Oct. 28, 2012. His next win came during the first race of the Desafío, the Chihuahua 240 on Sept. 7, where he survived four late-race restarts, including a green-white-checkered finish.

Rubén Rovelo (honorable mention) - Rovelo finished the season third in the championship standings after putting together a solid numbers in 2014. The 26-year-old earned his seventh and eighth career series wins, his first trips to Victory Lane since Aug. 2012, to go along with his six top fives and nine top 10s. His 14 races left him one shy of a full season but earned him honorable mention on this year-end list.

Breakout Performance

Rubén García Jr. - It's difficult to award a former Rookie of the Year (2012) and championship contender (fourth in the final standings in 2013) as the top breakout performer on the season, but for the second consecutive year, García Jr. found himself within striking distance of the series championship heading into the final event of the season. Racing with a new team, the 18-year-old was the runner-up in the championship standings after an accident in the season finale ruined his chance at overtaking Calderón for the series crown. García Jr. was named to the 2014-15 NASCAR Next class and also made his Nationwide Series debut a day after finishing seventh in the Mexico Series season-opener in Phoenix.

Santiago Tovar (honorable mention) - The 2013 Rookie of the Year followed up his award-winning first year with a strong sophomore season. He earned his first two career pole awards and finished 2014 with two top fives, the firsts of his career, and four top 10s.

Top Team

Telcel - The prestigious racing team led the series with five team wins (Suárez) en route to its first championship since the 2011 season. Calderón  and Suárez  combined for five wins, 12 top fives and 20 top 10s, including three pole awards. Calderón's title now gives them five, the most by any team in series history.

AXTEL M Racing (honorable mention) - This first year team hit the ground running, falling one win shy of tying for the most victories on the year. AXTEL M Racing began 2014 as a two-car team with Homero Richards and Enrique Contreras III behind the wheel of their Toyota Camrys. Midway through the season, they added Irwin Vences as a third driver. The moved proved to be a good one for the Mexico City based team as Vences and Richards both qualified for the Desafío, with each driver finishing the season with two victories apiece, including a win by Richards in the season finale at Puebla.

Top Races

Phoenix International Raceway - The season-opening Toyota 120 event at Phoenix, the second year that the series opened its calendar in the United States, had something for everyone. Suárez began the race from the outside pole position, quickly getting around pole sitter Pardo for the lead. After a speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 46 dropped him to the rear of the field, the NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity program alum methodically marched through the field until reaching the top three before Lap 90. Over the final 10 laps, Suárez waged a nip-and-tuck battle with race-leader Antonío Peréz, with Peréz holding the edge until the final lap. Shortly after the white flag flew, Suárez shortcut the backstretch dogleg to gain the advantage and score his first of five Mexico Series wins of the season.

El Dorado Speedway - Exciting lead changes, late race restarts and a green-white-checkered finish are all ingredients for heart-pounding racing. The Chihuahua 240 had all of those in abundance, including the added drama of being the first race of the Desafío round, culminating in a the second victory of the season for Pardo and a drama-filled race for the spectators in attendance. The race was dominated early by pole winner Vences who was looking to win back-to-back races from the pole position. On Lap 18, Vences began to lose speed, allowing Suárez to take the lead as Vences was forced down pit road.  Several drivers would battle for the top spot, including García Jr. who led the second-most laps at 55 behind Suárez's race-leading 79. Pardo passed García Jr. for the lead on Lap 203 of 245, but the two drivers would exchange the top spot several times over the next few laps, with Pardo eventually holding off the young driver and the rest of the field for the remainder of the race, including four late-race restarts.

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The season-opening race at Phoenix International Raceway was once again one of the highlights of the NASCAR Mexico Series calendar. Getty Images for NASCAR

The 2014 Year In Pictures