NASCAR Diversity Program Helps Daniel Suarez Become Xfinity Champion

Photo by Andrew Coppley/Harold Hinson Photography

By Jerry Jordan, Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Like many of NASCAR’s up-and-coming drivers, Daniel Suarez began his racing career in the go-kart ranks. It was 2002 and Suarez, at just 10-years-old, was racing on the tracks near his home of Monterrey, Mexico. He showed promise but it wasn’t an easy road, as his family didn’t have the financial ability to provide him with the best equipment and better equipment leads to better results. Still, he had talent, passion and determination and five years later he would win the title in his racing class. Fast forward 14 years and Suarez again won his class championship but this time, he was crowned the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion – something no other person born outside the U.S. has ever accomplished.

November 19, 2016: Daniel Suarez wins the Ford EcoBoost 300 and the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. (HHP/Ashley R Dickerson)

Daniel Suarez wins the Ford EcoBoost 300 and the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. Photo by Ashley R Dickerson/Harold Hinson Photography

For a poor kid from Mexico, having a shot to race in the highest levels of NASCAR was a dream that almost didn’t happen. He moved to the U.S. in 2011 and began racing in the K&N Series but had little success. He decided to give himself one more year and was approached by representatives of NASCAR’s new Drive 4 Diversity program and that saved his career.
“Listen, five years ago when I moved to the U.S. for the very first time, I tried to do everything by myself.  I had a couple of sponsors from Mexico, and really I wanted to race and to be successful, and I went to the K&N Series, and I didn’t speak English, and I tried to do it by myself, and it just didn’t work out,” Suarez said. “I was learning English but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was very, very close to going back to Mexico, to my country, because I just didn’t feel like I was good enough.
“The second year, I gave myself another shot with the NASCAR Drive 4 Diversity program. The first year was a lot about adaptation, a lot of keep learning English, and by the second part of the year, we were winning races. We finished top three like seven times in a row, and we finished third in the championship. Everything started to get much, much better.”
The idea that Suarez was ready to give up on his dream didn’t resonate well through the media center at Homestead-Miami Speedway as many never knew he was so close to calling it quits. NASCAR CEO Brian France came up with the idea of the D4D Program and admitted that had his staff not reached out to Suarez, he wouldn’t be the 2016 Xfinity Series Champion.
“Obviously, we’re very proud of Daniel Suarez last night on an unbelievable run and winning the championship,” France told the media. “We’re very proud that it validates our diversity plan in a significant way. All kinds of conversations on what we’ve said through the years is these things take time to find the kind of talent that can actually compete at a high level on the biggest stages, and he’s done that. I would tell you, without the Drive for Diversity program, with certainty, Daniel Suarez is not in NASCAR.”
After his D4D participation, Suarez also became involved in the NASCAR Next initiative, which is designed to help drivers deal with the media, marketing and other distractions off the track.
“I started to have a huge support from NASCAR,” Suarez said. “In the second year in the Drive 4 Diversity program, we won in Daytona, we won in New Smyrna, which I think was huge for myself and for the team, and after that I just felt like a lot of support started to come, and a lot of people in Mexico that didn’t believe a lot in a Latin American driver was able to do here in the U.S., they started to look to NASCAR in the U.S. as an option.”

November 19, 2016:   Daniel Suarez wins the Ford EcoBoost 300 and the Xfinity Championship at Homestead Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. (HHP) Rusty Jarrett

November 19, 2016: Daniel Suarez wins the Ford EcoBoost 300 and the Xfinity Championship at Homestead Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Harold Hinson Photography

Suarez’s early success no doubt led to interested by other Mexican racers, as well as, racers from other parts of the world, like Israel’s Alon Day. Yes, expanding NASCAR to other countries broadens the reach of the sport and increases the fan base but also gives opportunities to bring in new talent that may never have had a chance to race in NASCAR.
“A lot of drivers are coming now,” Suarez said. “A lot of drivers are trying to go to apply to Drive 4 Diversity program. They are racing in the K&N Series, which I think is something really good. A lot of drivers tried to do that in the past, and they did a really good job, but for one or another reason things just didn’t work out, and it right now it seems like that path is going to the right direction with us and with some other young drivers that are following what we are doing through the Drive 4 Diversity program.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *