Mexico Series returning to Phoenix in 2014
February 07, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
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The NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series is once again returning to Phoenix International Raceway, this season with a longer event.
NASCAR announced Friday that the sport's Mexico Series will hold its opener under the lights at Phoenix for a second consecutive year, running Friday, Feb. 28, as part of a weekend that also includes the Nationwide and Sprint Cup circuits. The Mexico Series became the first international NASCAR-sanctioned tour to hold a points race in the United States when it competed on the 1-mile desert oval a season ago.
That event was a 75-lap race comprised of two segments with a 10-minute break in between, and won by Abraham Calderon. This year the Mexico Series event at Phoenix will be lengthened to 120 laps, and instead of a break the teams will have to make two pits stops.
"The drivers' experience was amazing."
-- Federico Alaman, general director of the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series
"The teams were asking to have like a regular format race," said Federico Alaman, general director of the series. "In Mexico our races are an average of two hours, two hours and a half, which is almost 200 miles, on every track that we have in Mexico. When we discussed the opportunity to go again to Phoenix, it was something that we decided between the NASCAR team in the U.S., the NASCAR Mexico team, and obviously some team representatives."
Alaman is expecting a usual field of about 30 cars for the race, despite the travel distance involved for most teams, which are based around Mexico City. But feedback from competitors was universally positive, he added.
"The drivers' experience was amazing. They didn't realize that it was going to be a bunch of fans in the grandstands, especially Latin fans or Mexican‑American fans," Alaman said. "... We've more than compromised with all the teams to make this happen, and the experience that we as a series and the team owners, the drivers, the Mexican sponsors that we have a chance to invite to the race, it was amazing. We didn't measure or realize that the first event from the NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series was going to be that big."
George Silbermann, NASCAR's vice president for touring and weekly series, said discussions about this year's event began "the day after we ran last year's event." Phoenix president Bryan Sperber, whose track is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, called it "really a magical night" when the Mexico tour raced at the venue last season.
"I thought the event was a tremendous success on a lot of fronts," Sperber added. "We hoped that the race would resonate with fans and potential fans in the American Latino market, and it truly delivered." The grandstands were "full of fans that I think probably had never been to PIR before, or if they had, they hadn't been in a long time. The level of enthusiasm and excitement among what I think is an emerging fan base for the sport as a whole was really exciting to be around that. So I think the event as a whole was just tremendously successful."
Sperber said ticket sales for the event are up over last year. The Phoenix race kicks off a Mexico Series schedule comprised of 15 events, and concludes in November at the Mexico City road course that once hosted the Nationwide Series. The Phoenix opener has quickly emerged as one of the circuit's crown jewels.
"This is a big step for us on the exposure side, on the growth, on the format and the series of what we're very proud working on with NASCAR in Mexico," Alaman said. "And I think not only the Latino market, but the Mexicans must feel very proud … because there has not happened in the past to have 100 percent Mexican series go to the U.S. for a second time and have this kind of event."