Daniel Suarez has two families.
The one that raised him and the one that adopted him.
The former resides in Monterrey, Mexico and usually watches from a distance as the 23-year-old is guided by his adoptive family – Joe Gibbs Racing – which resides in Charlotte, N.C.
“I really think they are a great organization, they are an even better group of people because as you know my family is not here, my family is back in Mexico,” Suarez said following Friday night’s Kentucky 300. “So they are pretty much my family in the race track, race shop and every time.”
But Friday night at Kentucky Speedway, his real family was represented by his mother, who was watching her son race in the Unites States for the first time.
She watched her son earn his second top-five finish of his Xfinity career a week after he started from the pole for the first time, in the Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
It was Suarez’ best finish on a track larger longer than a half-mile. His best finish to date is second at Bristol Motor Speedway, a short track that allowed Suarez race as he did in the K&N Pro Series West and East, where he earned three wins.
“In the beginning of the year, I (felt) way more comfortable on short track racing than mile-and-a-half and superspeedways,” Suarez said. “Pretty much my background came from short track racing. This is pretty much my first year on big race tracks … Right now, I feel way more comfortable on the big race tracks. I’m learning a lot about aero and speeds.”
This is also the first year that Suarez has permanently lived in the United States after spending the last few years shuttling back-and-forth to Mexico. Now when a race weekend is over, it’s back to Charlotte, where he continues to learn from “everyone” at Joe Gibbs Racing, including Joe Gibbs himself, team president J.D. Gibbs and executive vice president of NASCAR Xfinity/Development, Steve deSouza.
“Kyle Busch (helps) with a lot of tips, on board camera and all the homework I have to do before each race,” Suarez said. “Most of the race tracks that I have been to so far this year have been my first time ever. Sometimes it’s hard to adapt fast.”
Though it’s hard, Suarez is showing he can do it. Though he was involved in two accidents at Daytona last week, he managed to finish 15th after starting on the pole in his first repeat visit to a track in 2015.
Camping World Truck Series driver Matt Crafton thought he drove like a “bird without feathers” in February. Now Suarez is eighth in the Xfinity point standings with six top-10 finishes while also earning seven top 10 and four top-five finishes in seven CWTS races.
“I feel like a different driver,” Suarez said. “We keep learning a lot. Every single weekend I feel like we learn a lot of new things … I really feel more confident running up front and with these guys. Not just running with them, but learning from all these guys because I really feel like we are learning from the best drivers.”
While his adoptive family in JGR has a lot to teach Suarez, that’s not all they’re doing to support the young driver.
Says Suarez: “They don’t give up with me and my sometimes rookie mistakes and my learning process.”