CHARLOTTE, NC ( Associated Press) — Here are some things to know about Daniel Suarez’s long journey before becoming the first Mexico-born champ at NASCAR’s top level:
– When he decided to seriously take his career as a racecar driver in Monterey as a child, Suarez’s father closed his famous automobile restoration shop to support his son.
Suarez’s first move to the United States to pursue his dream was not a relocation to NASCAR’s hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, but an unconventional arrangement to live with his team owner in Buffalo, New York.
– He spoke no English and had to learn by watching cartoons, programming with light dialogue that could teach him the basics.
– When he finally made it to North Carolina, he crashed with various friends until he found the cheapest apartment in Mooresville, which was informally known as “Race City USA” because it This was due to its proximity to NASCAR shops.
These were the toughest two years of his life.
“I didn’t have the money to buy English speaking classes,” Suarez said. “I remember waking up one day and fearing that the language barrier was going to keep me away from my goal, which was a winner, a championship winner in the NASCAR Cup Series. I didn’t want that to happen. I Started working very hard to learn English.
“It’s been quite a journey. So I felt like my story was similar to that of many Mexicans, Latinos who are coming to this country, trying to find a goal or trying to find their dream . If I was able to do it, everyone out there can do it.”
Suarez is only the fifth cup winner born outside the US in NASCAR history. Beginning his 195th career, he won the road course at Sonoma Raceway, In addition to Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada) and Mario Andretti (Italy) join as internationally born cup winners.
But Suarez won long before Sunday, first in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series, then at K&N, then in the Truck Series race against Kyle Busch. He was a darling of Toyota, who wanted him so much on their schedule, and he moved on to an Xfinity Series ride with Joe Gibbs Racing that should have changed his life.
Suarez won three races and the 2016 Xfinity title, and perhaps in another year he will be ready for the Cup. Instead, Carl Edwards abruptly retired and with an unexpected hole to fill in their Cup lineup, JGR quickly promoted Suarez.
He was unwilling to drive the No. 19 Toyota, and gave him two seasons before JGR turned him loose to promote Eric Jones. JGR has since cut Jones as well.
Stewart-Haas Racing took a shot at Suarez in 2019 and thought he would tie the sponsorship together to keep the seat for more than a season. Over the closing weekend, he learned he had been fired for the second time in a year.
Gaunt Brothers Racing took on Suárez for the 2020 season, but it was a fledgling team and failed to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500. The remaining 35 races were terrible and the Gauntt Brothers have run just eight races since Justin Marx threw a lifeline to Suarez. End of that season.
Marx was starting trackhouse racing and wanted to build it around Suarez, who was joining his fourth team in four years. Marx is a former driver but also a businessman; He believed Suarez could be a winner in the right environment, and also recognized what a Mexican driver could do for the trackhouse.
As he built the trackhouse around Suarez, Marx brought the recreational pitbull into his ownership group. Both had clear goals of exploiting the Latino market and making an impact on youth in America’s minority communities.
The biggest move came last summer when Marx bought the entire NASCAR organization from Chip Ganassi, which gave him the people, parts, and shop he needed to build a winning team. It also gave him room for a second car, and the seat went to Ross Chastain, who this March not only won Trackhouse’s first Cup race, but added a second win.
Suarez had to win the first race at the trackhouse, not Chastain. Now Chastain was locked in the playoffs, while Suarez was below the playoff cutline with little to improve on.
Soon after Suarez took down the checkered flag on Sunday, Marx noted that Suarez and crew chief Travis Mack built the trackhouse and that Chastain’s victory “was hard on him. But he never gave up, he knew that.” They will follow the path of victory.”
Suarez’s entire career has been about never giving up and his decade-long climb has been remarkable. Fox Sports put Suarez in the booth for an Xfinity Series broadcast last season And he also said lap in Spanish.
His journey is not over yet and he is celebrated in motorsports since his victory: Mexican driver Formula One’s Checo Perez And IndyCar’s Pato O’Ward Social media sent congratulations, while defending F1 champion Max Verstappen dropped his affair on an Instagram post of Suarez’s girlfriend, Julia Piquet. Suarez and Verstappen are both in long-term relationships with the daughters of three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet.
As he gazed out at Sonoma Raceway, Suarez noticed his section of fans. They’re called Daniels Amigos, And he had a fan club event before the race. Now his driver was the winner and Suarez apologized for the excessive enthusiasm he had shouted towards his class.
Suarez then addressed his fans in Spanish before translating his message into English:
“It’s the first of many,” he smiled.
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