The first Mexican-born driver to win a top-tier NASCAR national title, Daniel Suarez was certainly going to garner plenty of attention at the 35th Annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. But thanks to Carl Edwards’s stunning announcement two weeks ago, Suarez took the stage on Wednesday not as the defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, but as the full-time pilot of the No. 19 Arris Toyota in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“There’s been a lot going on, but I’ve been racing just about every day and getting to know my whole 19 team,” Suarez said about preparing for the upcoming season. “It’s quite a bit different from the XFINITY Series with the way we do things. But we still have some time before Daytona and hopefully we’ll get things started the right way.”
Suarez has quickly ascended the NASCAR ladder, starting in the sanctioning body’s Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs. He ran regional series (2011-2014) before running full-time and part-time schedules in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, respectively in 2015 and 2016. He will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.
The Drive for Diversity program “was very important to me for sure. It helped me a lot in the K&N Series, but at the same time I’ve had a lot of people helping me in Mexico throughout my career,” said Suarez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. “They have helped me through the most important part of my racing career – all the transitions of racing here in the states.
“For me, it’s amazing to be able to be a role model for so many future (Latin American) drivers. It’s been a lot of fun going through this journey and it’s just going to get better and better and a driver that can represent that community.”
Suarez also represents a strong field of 2017 rookies that includes Erik Jones and Ty Dillon, who will be the top candidates to compete with Suarez for Rookie of Year.
“I think it’s going to be very cool to race (those guys); we’ve raced together for more than one year, so we know each other well and we get along very well,” said Suarez. “For me, something that’s very cool is how slowly all these group of drivers have been making our way up and now at the Cup level. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun … I’m looking forward to it.”