'Everybody roots for him': Why Mexico native Daniel Suarez's NASCAR win at Atlanta is special

Shane Connuck, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

HAMPTON, Ga. — Daniel Suarez is just happy he gets to do what he does every weekend.

He’s grown up loving racing. Be it driving go-karts in his hometown, competing in NASCAR’s Mexico Series or chasing the dream in the United States, Suarez had his eyes on being a professional race car driver since he was 13.

The Mexico native’s unprecedented career has had its shares of both adversity and triumph. Long before the 32-year-old was the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR series title, he was moving to Buffalo, N.Y., to live with an owner of a small team for which he’d briefly competed.

“You really have to come from a different place to understand what I’ve had to work through to be able to get here,” Suarez said after winning Sunday’s race at Atlanta. “I had to learn English by myself. I had to do a lot of things different to be able to make it, slowly build relationships to have people help me.

“It was a journey. It wasn’t easy on me. Today, I’m sitting here, and I’m very, very lucky to be in this position. Being the only guy in the Cup Series that can actually do an interview in Spanish.”

Suarez likely secures a spot in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which begin at Atlanta this year. Sunday’s race set the track’s record with 48 lead changes, starting with the biggest wreck in the speedway’s history.

Suarez was sniffing the race lead on the last turn of the final lap on Sunday, moving into a three-wide position with Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch, and it was a photo finish that sent Suarez to Victory Lane for the first time since Sonoma in 2022.

“I’m happy for Daniel,” Blaney told reporters on pit road. “That’s cool to see him win one. I mean, it was fun racing with him. He’s a great guy.”

Suarez’s new crew chief, Matt Swiderski, has been impressed with his confidence. Swiderski joined the respected driver at Trackhouse Racing before this season.

He joked that Suarez is a lot more “calm” than AJ Allmendinger, the personality-filled part-time driver who climbed into the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a stunning win at last year’s Roval race.

“I’m sure at some point he will yell at me, but so far we haven’t had that yet,” Swiderski said with a laugh. “I’ve just been really impressed with how hard Daniel works. He really focuses on his craft. When we have our meetings every week or go to the simulator, he comes in prepared. He asks questions. It’s just really impressive. He really wants to be at the top of this series and puts in the effort to get there.”

After Suarez’s win at Sonoma, Trackhouse owner Justin Marks remembers the other drivers signaling a “thumbs-up” out their windows toward Suarez while he celebrated with his “Daniel’s Amigos” fans.


On Sunday, Ross Chastain showed up in Victory Lane to celebrate his Trackhouse teammate’s victory. Most of the Cup drivers expressed their happiness for Suarez’s victory on pit road.

“Moving to Monterrey, Mexico, to America to try and be a NASCAR driver, like, nobody does that,” Marks said. “Everybody knows what his story is. He’s a great person, always smiling, he’s happy and genuinely passionate about being here. I think everybody roots for him.”

When younger people — particularly those from Mexico or Latin America — ask Suarez how he’s gotten where he has, he urges that it hasn’t been easy. He’s had to grind.

Anyone who reaches the NASCAR Cup Series level has to compete against the greatest drivers in the world. That’s a hard enough fight for the majority of people who climb into a race car.

Suarez had to learn a new language. He had to understand an entirely new culture. He’s had to make new connections.

He looked out into the packed room inside the Atlanta Motor Speedway media center. His mother, his father and most of the people who give him advice every single day weren’t there. Only his “American grandpa,” standing in the back, who had been with him since he moved to the United States, and Suarez said he wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.

Sunday was undoubtedly a special moment for Suarez, and some people told him that he could relax now with his spot in the playoffs locked up. But no driver’s goal is to win a singular race.

To win a championship, you usually need more than one or two victories. Champions tend to accumulate points from a variety of strong runs, compounded with big race wins down the stretch.

Suarez was running toward the front late in last weekend’s Daytona 500 before getting collected in The Big One. He won the race on Sunday.

He loved his team heading into this season, and bigger goals are at the top of his mind.

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