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QUERÉTARO, Mexico - Rubén Pardo once again proved that you should never count a racing veteran out.
The longtime series mainstay overcame an early spin to win his first NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series race of 2014 in Sunday's Queretana 200 from the Autódromo del Ecocentro de la Unión Ganadera. It was Pardo's fifth career win, first since October 12, 2012 in Chihuahua, and second career victory in Querétaro. He won in this city, located about 130 miles northwest of Mexico City, back in 2004, the series’ inaugural season and three years before it came under the NASCAR banner.
Pardo finished 3.606 seconds faster than second-place finisher Patrick Goeters, but the victory was a lot harder than that number would suggest. After starting the race in eighth, Pardo moved into the top-five early on, but a spin in turn three on lap 21 sent the veteran driver to the rear of the field. Teamwork, strategy, and a bit of luck, helped Pardo work his way back up to the front, eventually taking the lead on the 135th lap and holding on for the win.
"At the beginning of the race, when I started eighth and moved into fifth, I thought I could win the race," said the 35-year-old Mexico City native. "But I made a mistake and had an accident in turn three. I fell to the rear of the field but am grateful to every member of my team and HO Speed Racing. They were encouraging me over the radio all day, made all the adjustments I asked them to make, and gave me the push I needed to get this win. This one is for them."
Goeters, who led 26 of the first 27 laps of the day, looked poised to earn his sixth career victory, battling for the lead throughout the entire race. He challenged Pardo late, but was forced to settle for his first runner-up finish of the season and third top five through six events.
"I have to thank everyone on my Ficrea team for the job they did today," said Goeters. "We've been working very hard the past couple of weeks to get this team where it's supposed to be. We'll keep working hard and hopefully come back with a better result next time."
Another driver who spent time at the front of the pack was points leader Daniel Suárez. After a disappointing finish outside of the top 10 in San Luis Potosí, Suárez made his move towards the front of the field in the early-going, breaking into the top five on lap 29. The NASCAR Next alum and current Drive for Diversity program participant in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, held the lead for 18 laps in the second-half of the race, but was not able to overcome the No. 15 machine in the closing laps. Suárez ended up third, earning his fifth top three of the year.
"It was definitely a hard-earned third-place finish," said the 22-year-old Monterrey driver. "I think this third-place finish was harder than the victories we've gotten this year. We tried a different strategy that sometimes goes well but sometimes doesn't. Today, it was ok, but I'm happy with all the members of my team. Once again, they gave me a very competitive car, which is exactly what we need to stay in the lead this season."
Héctor Aguirre finished fourth, followed by Rafael Martínez in fifth. Martínez was involved in one of the bigger pile-ups of the day when, while battling Aguirre for the second position, he made contact with Antonio Pérez and spun in turn two. Several cars also spun as a result, blocking progress for the rest of the field and bringing out the caution flag. Martínez fell to the rear, but worked his way back towards the front, salvaging a top-five finish on the day.
Homero Richards and pole award winner Santiago Tovar finished sixth and seventh respectively. It was Tovar's first pole award with the series. They were followed by Rubén Rovelo, Irwin Vences and Pérez to complete the top 10.
Pérez saw his streak of consecutive top-five finishes come to an end on Sunday, but was able to pick up his sixth top 10 on the year.
The race was slowed by eight cautions for 46 laps.
With the top-three finish, Suárez increased his points lead over Pérez to 14 heading into the final four races of the regular season. The Desafío, a five-race playoff to determine the Toyota Series championship, will begin after the series makes its first visit to Puebla on August 17th for the 10th event on the 2014 calendar.
The NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series is back in action on June 8th when it heads back to Mexico City and the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Rubén Pardo's victory in the Queretana 200 was his fifth career NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series win. Courtesy OCESA