Daniel Suarez, who turns 24 today, has seen his life do a complete 180-degree turn over the last five years.
He came to the United States from his native Mexico at the age of 19, where he earned 10 wins, 25 top-fives, 34 top-10s and 13 poles in 58 starts in the NASCAR Mexico Series.
“I moved to the States without anything, without money, without many friends and I didn’t know the language at all,” he told NASCAR Talk last May. “The first thing was just to try and learn the language and just start from there.”
With only a few friends in the States and unable to speak English, Suarez took a leap of faith.
“I just came here,” Suarez said. “A friend of mine, Jose Sabates (brother of NASCAR team co-owner Felix Sabates) and a few other friends told me they thought I had a talent to do something in the United States.
“One of my biggest concerns was the language. They wanted me to move to the States to start learning the language, so I did.”
Now, as the birthday boy prepares for the 2016 season, he’s come a long way in a very short period of time. Not only is he fluent in English, as well as his native Spanish, he’s also become one heck of a race car driver in his adopted second country.
Finishing fifth in the final standings, Suarez earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the Xfinity Series in 2015.
While he’s still looking for his first career win in that series, he still had a stout campaign last season with eight top-five and 18 top-10 finishes, along with three poles in 33 starts.
Suarez also showed great versatility, making 13 starts in the Camping World Truck Series in 2015, as well. While he went winless, he had seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
Even so, Suarez will still have to contend with series holdovers including Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Brendan Gaughan, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and 2015 Truck Series champ Erik Jones, who jumps up to the Xfinity Series in 2016.
In addition, Suarez gets a new crew chief for 2016, as Scott Graves, who won the NXS championship with Buescher, hopes to do the same with Suarez, as well.
“We have the speed and so many of the things we have to put in the right place,” Suarez told NASCAR.com recently. “But something very important to me is the speed and we have that.
“If we can put ourselves in the right position to be patient, be strong and be consistent we will put ourselves in position (for the championship). If we are just a little bit better (in 2016), I feel we will have a shot.”