Daniel Suarez made history Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, becoming the first Latin-American driver to win a championship in one of NASCAR’s national touring series.
And he did so in style, winning the Ford EcoBoost 300 race to clinch his first XFINITY Series championship in only his second full-time season as driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
It was the third series win of the year (and his career) for Suarez, who also scored XFINITY wins earlier this season at Michigan and Dover, and added a Camping World Truck Series win at Phoenix just last week.
The 24-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico reminded post-race interviewers that he learned English by watching cartoons on television, trying to prepare for the day when he might be a champion driver who needed to tell his story to the media worldwide.
He's there now, and was quick to say that he’s ready and more than willing to go full throttle in that endeavor now.
“Honestly, right now I wouldn't mind doing all the interviews in the world. I'm just so happy for my team, my family, Joe Gibbs Racing, everyone involved,” Suarez said during the championship-trophy presentation Saturday. “I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have – my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now. They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me and right now we are just living a dream.”
The fact that Suarez made NASCAR history was not lost on Toyota executive Ed Laukes after Suarez also helped wrap up its fourth manufacturer's championship in the series.
“Congratulations to Daniel Suarez and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing on winning the XFINITY Series championship,” Laukes said. “Daniel has had an incredibly consistent and successful season and we are so proud he was able to notch his first series victory and title behind the wheel of a Camry. Daniel has also brought a new fan base to NASCAR by becoming the first Mexican-born driver to claim a national series title and we look forward to continuing to watch his career grow for many years to come.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs added of Suarez's historic title: “This is going to be a big deal, I think, for our sport. It's huge.”
Suarez said he helped prepare himself for a run at the XFINITY title by moving to Huntersville, North Carolina, shortly after signing two years go to be near the JGR shop, where he spends a great deal of his time.
“I live very close to the shop. I like to spend a lot of time in the shop with the guys, learning about the car and learning how to get better,” he said.
But while he’s constantly looking toward what obviously is a bright racing future, Suarez also has been careful to never forget his past. He brought several family members and also mechanics who used to work on his cars in Mexico to Homestead for Saturday’s championship race.
“At the end of the day, NASCAR, México, U.S., Canada, it doesn't matter where, we are a family. We are one family,” he had said earlier in the week, prior to winning the title. “That's something very important. Yeah, I'm from a different country, but we are from the same family, and I'm just really proud to be racing here in NASCAR in the U.S., very proud to be battling right now for this championship.”
Now he has gone one step further and won that championship, making history in the process.