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NASCAR Nationwide heads from the beaches of Daytona to the desert of Phoenix

Kyle Larson and Ruben Garcia Jr. are both familiar faces in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity, and will each take to the track in Phoenix this weekend.
Kyle Larson and Ruben Garcia Jr. are both familiar faces in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity, and will each take to the track in Phoenix this weekend.
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, NASCAR and CIE, the leading live entertainment company in Latin America and third biggest live entertainment promoter of the world, have reached a 10-year landmark agreement for the Mexico-based Toyota Series to continue to operate under the NASCAR banner through the 2023 season.

“This historic announcement represents the next step in the growth of the sport and the international impact NASCAR is making,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations. “The NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series continues to be a bridge that makes NASCAR more relevant to the Hispanic community in the U.S. Along with the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series gives our sport a strong and unified presence across North America and Europe."

The NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series is the premier auto racing series in Mexico. It traditionally runs a 15-race schedule, and for the second year in a row will kick off the season at Phoenix International Raceway. In another significant moment, Deportes Telemundo will air NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series’ Toyota 120 live on mun2, a first for NASCAR and the Mexico-based series.

“This extension symbolizes the strength of our relationship with NASCAR,” said Federico Alaman, managing director of the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, a partnership between NASCAR and OCESA that oversees marketing and licensing for the NASCAR and NASCAR Mexico brands in Mexico. “I’m very proud of how far the series has come since its inception and continuing to operate under the NASCAR banner for many years to come will reinforce the high level of competition and excitement the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series brings to every event.”

The 2014 season will mark the 11th overall for the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, which has been a NASCAR-sanctioned series since 2007. The inaugural year featured just one oval, while recent years have had just one or two road courses. Official sponsors have grown from 19 in 2007 to 37 last year, while the series averages 34 cars a race.

Thankful of the opportunity created by the NASCAR Mexico Series and his great results in his short career, Ruben Garcia Jr. has been called in and asked by SR2 Motorsports to drive the #24 Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series during the events this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The teenager has run full time in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series for the past two seasons, winning theAguascalientes 240 in May of 2013.

"I can’t believe this is finally happening, it seems like it’s all a dream,” stated Garcia Jr. "I know and fully understand that I must take everything in a calm and responsible manner during the race weekend. My biggest goals right now is to enter and finish the race and attain as much time behind the steering wheel as I can. I know that the results will come with time."

Garcia Jr. is working hard to follow in his father, Ruben Garcia’s footsteps. Garcia Sr. made nine NASCAR Sprint Cup starts in the 80’s, all at Riverside Speedway. He also made 44 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West from 1979 to 1988, winning two races, both at Mesa Marin in 1985.

In 2013, Ruben made his first career start at Phoenix International Raceway, starting 11th and finishing 3rd. Garcia Jr. notched three top-fives and eleven top-ten finishes during the 2013 season, finishing third in the final NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series points standings.

Randy MacDonald, a former driver that has owned and managed his own NASCAR team, was very surprised with Ruben Jr. last year at Phoenix International Raceway in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series in which he placed 3rd representing the colors of HDI Seguros/ Grupo Imagen, which then brought Randy now to consider Ruben Jr. for this opportunity.

Ruben has had to go through the various processes to gain the acceptance from the directors of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. His previous experience in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Racing Series allowed for Brett Bodine to accept and present Ruben Jr. with a license to compete in the Blue Jeans Go Green 200.

Garcia Jr. will not be the only young man attempting to win in the middle of the desert this weekend. NASCAR rising star Kyle Larson and his Target sponsored machine will once again take the green flag in his second season with Turner Scott Motorsports’ NNS program, where he competed in 2013 en route to NNS Rookie of the Year honors and an eighth-place finish in points. As part of a new promotional campaign, Target will feature its first-of-its-kind digital savings app, Cartwheel, on Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro and firesuit.

“I’m proud to have even more opportunities to drive behind a great brand with such a strong history in motorsports," stated Larson. I’m already a huge fan of the Cartwheel app and placing it on my Nationwide car and firesuit is a fun way to differentiate the team on the track.”

Cartwheel is a fun and easy new way to save at Target and allows guests to choose from hundreds of offers at Target stores nationwide. These offers – which typically range from 5 to 30 percent off Target’s already great prices – are readily accessible from mobile phones, and can be shared easily with friends on Facebook. And as guests use Cartwheel more, they earn the opportunity to access even more offers. Since its launch last May, more than 5 million people have signed up for Cartwheel and saved more than $43 million on their Target purchases.

“As we gear up for the 2014 NASCAR season it is important to align Kyle with the Target brand every chance we can," added Steve Lauletta, President, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. "It began at the end of last season in his Cup races, and continued early this year when Target Cartwheel was featured on his midget car for the Chili Bowl in Tulsa.”

Fans can keep up with Ruben Garcia, Jr in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this weekend, as well as Kyle Larson and the other drivers and teams in NASCAR's second tier touring division at Phoenix International Raceway, with the race airing live Saturday, March 1 on ABC at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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