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MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Daniel Suárez won the Mexico Toyota 240 on Sunday at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, but Rodrigo Peralta took home the big hardware.
Peralta, from Querétaro, Mexico, earned his first NASCAR Toyota Series championship with a fourth-place finish. It was enough to hold off Suárez and the rest of the Desafío field. Peralta finished with a eight-point margin over Suárez.
"I'm very happy with my team and the great job that everyone did," Peralta said during his postrace celebration. "They gave me a great car all weekend, I kept my cool and did what I had to do to win the championship."
Suárez led a race high 91 laps en route to his third victory of 2013, surviving three green-white-checkered finish attempts in a race that ended under caution. It was his second win from the pole this year and fifth career Toyota Series win. Suárez did everything he needed to do to win his first championship, but, unfortunately, so did Peralta, who stayed close to the front and out of trouble all afternoon.
"I had to line up next to Dani (Suárez) in the last few restarts and Dani was obviously trying to get as many cars to pass me as possible," Peralta said. "Going into turns one and two, he tried to keep me to the outside but I realized that I needed to let-up so that he could pass me and I could get some breathing room."
Peralta carried a 15-point advantage into the final event of 2013, with eight other drivers mathematically alive in the championship chase.
"We had a good cushion coming into the finale," Peralta added, "but, in racing, nothing is written. I had to go out there and try to get the win."
Antonio Pérez, the 2008 series champion, earned his fifth runner-up finish of the year. He was followed across the line by Rubén Pardo, Peralta and 2012 rookie of the year Rubén Garcia, Jr.
Rogelio López, Homero Richards, Héctor Aguirre, Abraham Calderón and José Luis Ramírez rounded out the top 10.
Although he fell eight points shy of his first championship, Suárez closed out a successful 2013 campaign. The 21-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native was named to the NASCAR Next class, earned his first K&N Pro East victory, and finished in the top three in both the K&N Pro East and Toyota series.
"I feel like it was a very good season," Suárez said. "Unfortunately, some bad luck was in our way. I feel like we were the team to beat all year, but you also need some luck to get the championship. I feel like we were close this year, but we'll do something better for next year."
Peralta and NASCAR’s other 2013 touring champions will be honored at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Daniel Suárez celebrates his victory in the Mexico Toyota 240, his third win of 2013 and fifth of his career. Courtesy OCESA