NASCAR America: Daniel Suarez’s rise to Cup started with a pass of the hat

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If not for the help of fellow racers in the Volkswagen Beetles racing series in Mexico, Daniel Suarez might not have made it to NASCAR.

“I got an opportunity to race (Volkswagen) Beetles in Mexico, which is locally a big series,” Suarez said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “So I went there one year and the first year I won the championship.”

In 2008 at the age of 16, Suarez got his first glimpse of the NASCAR Mexico series and full-fender stock cars.

“I remember one race in Monterrey Mexico … was a combined race with the Beetles and NASCAR Mexico, so that race was extremely important to me because the big guys, the NASCAR people, was there and I wanted them to see me,” Suarez said.

“My father didn’t have the money to put me in a stock car,” said Suarez. “And all of the drivers in the Beetle series, they threw a little bit of money to help my father for my first race ever on an oval.”

After racing Beetles for one year, Suarez moved into a four-cylinder stock car. His father knew that would not be enough to showcase his talent, so after racing there for one year, Alejandro Suarez sold his automotive shop to raise the money needed to field a car for Daniel in the NASCAR Mexico series.

With the money that he got selling the shop, Alejandro bought into an existing team.

“They had another … experienced driver, full-time and they had me half of the season,” Daniel Suarez said. “And my father told me … ‘here’s the deal, you have 14 races in the season. You have seven races to make the big teams look at you and get you … to drive (for them) so you can move forward in your career.’ “

“The biggest team in Mexico … called me on the very last race because in that race, I won the pole and we were running up front. Then I got wrecked, but I was running up front. … The owner of that big team, he called me and moved someone to the side and he put me in the car.”

At the age of 18, Alejandro suggested his son turn his eye to America.

Daniel Suarez’s first race in America came in the 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown. He qualified 12th and finished 11th.

“The first practice, we’re like 50,” Suarez said. “Second practice, we’re like 40; third practice, we’re like 30. We qualified 12th and then everything … getting better and better. We ended up racing 11th, which was something no one was expecting.”

The owner, Lori Williams, was excited enough about Suarez’s performance to host the Mexican driver in Buffalo, New York, so Suarez could learn English and get a taste of racing in the K&N Series. Firmly established in the United States, he continued to rise rapidly through the ranks and joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 racing in the Xfinity series.

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