As the nation’s frontline workers continue their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, Daniel Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) will honor a pair of heroes who are especially near and dear to his heart during Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
The images of Dr. Elizabeth Sowell, an emergency medicine physician with Integrative Emergency Services at CHI St. Luke’s Health in Houston, and her husband James Sowell, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, will be riding along with Suárez on the rear quarter panels of his racecar during Thursday night’s 400-mile event. What makes them extra special? They are Suárez’s aunt and uncle.
Dr. Sowell is Suárez’s aunt on his father’s side of the family, and has been married to James Sowell since 2007. She and her fellow frontline health care workers have been working diligently for more than five months in the treatment of COVID-19 cases while also dealing with the more typical issues that require emergency medical attention.
James Sowell was a U.S. Army sergeant and a paratrooper with the 65th MP Company out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He served three deployments from 2001 to 2006, which included one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two tours of duty in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during his deployment and was also awarded a Bronze Star with a Valor Device for his actions on the battlefield.
The Sowells and their two young children have visited Suárez multiple times during race weekends at NASCAR tracks throughout the Southeast and remain among his most ardent supporters. In light of the current pandemic, however, they were not able to take advantage of the opportunity to sit in the grandstands to watch their nephew at last weekend’s race at their “home” track – Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. So, it’s only fitting they’ll be riding along with him in spirit Thursday night at Kansas.
Suárez heads to the third consecutive points-paying race on a 1.5-mile oval on the heels of his 23rd-place finish Sunday at Texas. It was the fifth top-25 this season for the single-car team, which is taking on the full 36-race schedule for the first time since joining the Cup Series ranks in 2018.
It will be Suárez’s seventh career Cup Series start at Kansas, where his best finish of seventh came in his first outing there in May 2017 while driving the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He nearly added a second top-10 finish in his most recent visit there last October in his Stewart-Haas Racing entry. He started eighth, led the opening six laps of Stage 2 and was running ninth coming to the white flag of the race’s first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish when he was caught up in a five-car accident.
Thursday night, Suárez will be proud to carry the images of a very special aunt and uncle with him on his No. 96 Toyota, and he’ll be hoping to give them a finish they will be proud of.