Daniel Suarez Becomes First Mexican-Born Driver to Claim Victory in NASCAR

(AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

A dominant performance through the twists and turns of the Sonoma Raceway road course brought history to NASCAR victory lane as Daniel Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver and second Latin American-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Suarez led a race-high 47 of 110 laps on the 1.99-mile road course en route to his first career win at NASCAR’s highest level. The victory nears Suarez to what could be his first career playoff appearance with hopes of racing for a championship at Phoenix Raceway in November.

“Man, I’ve been working very hard for this moment, not just myself, but my entire team,” Suarez said. “I am very lucky to have people around me in the team, outside the team.”

“So today just felt special. We did it in front of a few hundred Mexicans and ‘Daniel’s Amigos.’ It was just a special day. I have always seen California as my second home. To be able to get the first victory here is quite special.”

The victory is also the first for the Trackhouse Racing No. 99 team, co-owned by rapper and singer, Pitbull.

Suarez also becomes just the fifth foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race. He joins Mario Andretti (Italy), Earl Ross (Canada), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), and Marcos Ambrose (Australia).

The 30-year-old has become a driving force in Latino culture jumping into the NASCAR community. In 2019, “Daniel’s Amigos” was formed to bring together long-time race fans with new NASCAR enthusiasts and bring Latino culture to NASCAR. At select tracks, fans can register to join Daniel’s Amigos, which can include t-shirts, meals, meet-and-greets, mariachi band concerts, and other events throughout the race day.

The first Daniel’s Amigos get-together of 2022 happened at Phoenix Raceway in March, bringing together upwards of 200 members to cheer on the Mexican driver. Nearly 350 participants joined together to cheer on Suarez at Sonoma and witnessed his first Cup victory.

“My story is very similar to many, many Mexicans, Latinos,” Suarez said. “Coming to this country, trying to find a goal or trying to find the dream. If I was able to make it happen, everyone out there can make it happen.”

Suarez was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, and began kart racing at ten years old in 2003. Success arrived swiftly for Suarez, claiming the Mexican national karting champion in 2004 and 2008. Suarez would climb the ladder into the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and won rookie of the year in 2010 and begin racing in the states in 2011. After ten victories from 2012-2014 in the PEAK Mexico Series, Suarez was propelled to NASCAR’s feeder series in the United States and earned a spot on NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program roster.

In 2014, Suarez caught the eye of veteran NASCAR team, Joe Gibbs Racing, and earned a full-time ride with JGR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2015. In a three-win season in 2016, Suarez not only won the season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway but also earned the championship in NASCAR’s second-highest level.

Suarez was thrust into the NASCAR Cup Series the next season for JGR, racing at the top level of the sport. But Suarez’s dreams of competing in NASCAR began to stutter. Suarez severely underperformed compared to his fellow teammates at JGR and failed to make the Playoffs in his first three seasons. The Mexican driver, breaking down barriers in NASCAR for the Latino community, was cast aside at the end of 2019 in favor of former Cup Series Champion, Martin Truex Jr.

Suarez clung onto his NASCAR career, teaming up with part-time team, Gaunt Brother’s Racing. Suarez completed the season with a career-worsts in all categories with the small team and averaged just a 27th place finish. 2021 brought a burst of change into NASCAR when Justin Marks and Pitbull founded Trackhouse Racing and hand-picked Ross Chastain and Suarez to lead the team. While neither driver found victory lane in 2021, Trackhouse now has 3 victories in the 2022 season.

With Suarez’s win in Sonoma, a Mexican-born driver has now won a race in INDYCAR, NASCAR, and Formula 1 in 2022.

Ten races remain in the regular season before the Playoffs begin on September 4 in Darlington, SC. Tucson’s Alex Bowman, earned a victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and safely sits in the top 16 in points. Glendale’s Michael McDowell is having a career season and earned his third career top-three Cup Series finish on Sunday in Sonoma but sits 93 points below the playoff cutoff line. 

The victory sets Suarez up for a potential trip to the NASCAR Playoffs, an elimination bracket-style postseason that takes place in the final ten races of the season with the championship at Phoenix Raceway. Suarez can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with another regular-season victory or by finishing in the top 16 in points of drivers with at least one victory.

Next weekend will be one of the few off weekends in the Cup Series and will return to the track on June 26 at Nashville Superspeedway. The NASCAR Truck Series will be in action this upcoming Saturday for their final dirt race of the season at Knoxville Raceway.

NASCAR will return to Phoenix Raceway for Championship Weekend from November 4-6. It will be the third straight season with the championship hosted in the valley and will also return to Phoenix Raceway in 2023.