Max Calles grew up around racing in Mexico. The 25-year-old raced dirt bikes and go-karts as a kid and began in the lower series of NASCAR in Mexico when he was 12. He raced Formula cars and road courses and won the 24 Hours of Mexico in 2009 when he was 13.
Being around many styles of racing at a young age had a hand in helping Calles adapt quickly to the different styles of cars and tracks when he moved to the United States in 2010. But he also realized there was a lot he still had to learn about the sport in the U.S., both on and off the track.
“When I came here I struggled a lot because I was learning the language and just the different system that is run over here on the racing side,” he said. “Everything is different here.”
Since moving to the U.S., Calles has built a racing career for himself and been competing at Houston Motorsports Park, the only NASCAR-sanctioned asphalt track in Texas, over the last five years in a modified, pro-modified, late model and, most recently, pro truck.
Now that Calles has become accustomed to racing in the U.S., he’s turning his attention to helping other racers who are new, too.
Calles started a development program, called MCM Racing Development, to help other drivers from Mexico learn more about racing in the U.S. The idea came to Calles at the end of the 2020 season when was racing for a championship in the pro-modifieds division at HMP. A lot of drivers from Mexico he knew growing up started reaching out and asking about his success at the track and how they could also get involved with racing in Texas.
One of his friends, Diego Rodriguez, who runs a championship winning NASCAR Mexico team, wanted to join Calles racing at HMP and bring others with him.
“So we put something together last minute for the pro trucks so they can start racing and that’s how it really started,” Calles said. “Just to teach the guys from Mexico the way of racing over here because it’s very different.”
This season, Calles coached five drivers, ranging in age from 29-40. Most have established themselves as championship drivers in Mexico but wanted to branch out and try something new. Three of the team’s drivers are from Mexico and two are from Texas. The team includes: Rodriguez, Ruben Rovelo (a 2020 NASCAR Mexico champion), Enrique Ferrer, Memphis Villarreal, and JD Legg.
MCM has six race cars in total, among pro-trucks, modifieds and late models. The team started this year racing late models at Speed Weeks in Florida.
“They did very good for the lack of experience they had in those cars and also it was a big event,” Calles said. “There was a lot of competition so it was a very good weekend.”
After that, the team moved to racing at HMP and Mobile International Speedway in Alabama.
And the drivers have all found success this season. Ferrer finished the season fourth in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Texas standings and was the highest finishing Division I rookie in the state. Rodriguez finished fifth in the Texas state Division I standings.
“For the first complete year, it’s been good,” Calles said. “I just try to teach them stuff that they don’t see a lot in Mexico. They run stuff different so I just try to teach them as much as possible so they can just be on their own better.”
Ultimately, Calles said he wanted to help drivers make the transition from Mexico to the U.S. “the smoothest possible.”
“When you get here from Mexico you don’t know how racing works here,” he said. “There’s a lot of options, there’s a lot of classes, a lot of series, so you just have to know where to go so you can build that ladder for yourself to prepare them the most for the next level you want to do.
“A lot of guys over there want to come here and just experience the racing over here. See what’s different, what can they learn… That’s pretty much what it is. Most of the guys still race in Mexico and race here. It’s kind of like a practice for them.”
Calles still races himself, both on dirt and asphalt, but said adding coach to his title this year has been a different experience. He sometimes goes to the track just to watch, which isn’t something he’d ever done before.
Seeing drivers he coached find success, though, means just as much to him as winning himself.
“I feel like if they’re racing good I did good, too, because I taught them all the things they needed to know,” Calles said. “When they succeed and they capitalize on it, I feel good and I feel like we’re on the right direction.
“I really feel happy they’re doing good… They’re completely different drivers. I really like that and feel that our work is worth it.”
Calles is hopeful he can have more young drivers take advantage of his program in the future. He’s thankful to Advance Auto Parts and the crew at HMP for helping him grow his team and give him a place to not only grow as a driver himself but help others grow as competitors as well.
“I always loved racing in general,” he said. “I love the competition. I love to just prove to yourself that you are good and highlight the environment. The people that are around, I have a lot of good times at the race track with all kinds of people.
“And I really like the actual racing in general. Not only me as a driver, just being able to be there without driving. That’s something new to me for this year because I’ve always been to a race track to race. Sometimes I go now with my guys just to be the coach or something. I happen to enjoy that a lot. I just love to be at the race track and have good memories and also the people that are around. There are great people here in the U.S. that race. Everybody helps each other. It’s a very good environment for me. A family environment.”