Daniel Suarez’s Resilience is NASCAR’s American Dream

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

Daniel Suarez’s resilience was on display at the Charlotte Field Office for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as he entered another chapter of his version of the American Dream. The Trackhouse Racing driver, along with 47 others representing 28 different countries took part in a Naturalization Ceremony to become American citizens.

The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion moved to the U.S. 12 years ago. When the Monterrey, Mexico native first emigrated to the U.S., he didn’t know English, didn’t have a contract to race for a team, and didn’t know anyone here. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner explained his citizenship journey from a tourist visa to a work visa and then to a Permanent Resident Card, to now a U.S. citizen.

Throughout the entire process, Suarez has competed for six different teams during his NASCAR tenure. He started with Rev Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (now known as ARCA Menards Series East). Moving up the ladder he won three races and a championship in Xfinity with Joe Gibbs Racing. He then took over for the retiring Carl Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing, Gaunt Brothers Racing, and ultimately Trackhouse.

The perseverance and resilience that Suarez has had over the years now has him as the all-time start leader for internationally born NASCAR drivers in the three National Touring Series. He also leads internationally-born drivers in top-five and top-10 finishes as well as pole positions.

“Honestly, a lot of people have been telling me that (my story feels like the American dream), and I don’t like to brag or anything like that, but I feel like it is,” Suarez admitted. “If you think about it, I came from a family with no money, I grew up in a small house, it was five of us with a two-bedroom apartment, a two-bedroom house with one bathroom. I grew up in a very humble family and a lot of people don’t know all the details. 

“To come here from being in Mexico, going to public school in Mexico and not having really much money, and coming here without speaking English, not having the contacts, not really having the racing background, and being able to learn the language, making it to Drive for Diversity, racing in NASCAR, win races, a championship and make it to the top of NASCAR in a sport that 15 years ago, every person that I knew, they were telling me that there was no way, that it was a very American sport. I feel like it is (the American dream), and hopefully I can bring awareness to people to not let anyone tell you can’t (do it).”

Suarez famously learned English by watching TV and cartoons. A part of the reason that the 32-year-old turned to those as a way to learn the language was speed. The dual citizen understood that he needed to be quick in understanding the language and to be understood by his crew chief, team, and sponsors. Being ‘on the clock’ made learning English one of the hardest parts of Suarez’s journey.

“When I was learning English, the hardest part for me was that I was on the clock,” Suarez said. “The way I was looking at it, I moved here in 2011. When I moved here I was 19 years old. I was trying to make a career in NASCAR, and I knew I needed to learn English quickly.

“I didn’t have time to waste, I needed to learn English in a year or two, so that was the most difficult part, to know that I needed to learn. Learning English wasn’t enough. I needed to learn English quickly and that was, I would say the toughest part [was] to have the pressure that I needed to communicate with my team, with people, with sponsors as quickly as possible to be able to not throw my career to the toilet.” 

While Suarez has known about the Naturalization Ceremony for several months, he was still surprised by some of the attendees. He was joined by his fiancée, Julia Piquet, and several members of the Trackhouse team. However, he didn’t expect the keynote speaker to be NASCAR President Steve Phelps or for other members of the NASCAR industry to be on hand.

Phelps pointed to Suarez’s perseverance in NASCAR as a sign of how special that Suarez is. The journeyman driver has often been touted as one of the nicest competitors within the garage. His demeanor, combined with his determination, makes his journey not only in the sport, but to becoming a U.S. citizen, a unique one.

“I think there’s his resilience,” Phelps observed. “You know, he was thrust, into a Cup car after he won the Xfinity Series and I think with Carl’s departure, I think that was maybe a year too early for him to be able to do that, but he did it and he was close to making the playoffs that year, close to making the playoffs at Stewart-Haas. I think he was 17th and 18th in those years.

“But to see him persevere and how well he did in ‘22 and then a little bit of an off year last year. And then to see him win again and make the playoffs is special. So, I think resilience is the right word for him. He’s a resilient (person) and if you ask any of the other drivers, hey, who’s the nicest guy who drives in a Cup car, Daniel Suarez is going to be one of the people that is said.” 

At the conclusion of the 45-minute ceremony, many of the other newly minted American citizens, and their family members,  took photos with the driver of the No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Each person represented their own version of the American dream. The fact that Suarez and others were living their American dream wasn’t lost on Phelps.

“I think so, but I don’t think it’s cliche (to call it the American dream),” Phelps said. “I think it’s exactly what that is. Daniel’s getting married next month in Brazil to Julia. And I mean, he’s living an American dream. He’s a fortunate young man.”

Next for Suarez is the USA Today 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the first Cup race in which during the pre-race he’ll hear the National Anthem as an American citizen. He admitted that hearing the Star Spangled Banner will be different on Sunday, just how different, he won’t know until pre-race.

In eight starts at ‘The Magic Mile,’ Suarez has three top-10 finishes. His best finish at the Loudon, NH track, sixth, came in his first start there.

The USA Today 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is scheduled for Sunday, June 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on both the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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