Suarez makes history with XFinity Series win at Michigan

Posted On Saturday, 11 June 2016 20:00 Written by
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Daniel Suárez earned his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series win on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, becoming the first Mexican-born driver to capture a NASCAR national series victory.

With the victory, Suárez clinches a spot in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.

Suárez, a graduate of both the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, has a accomplished a long list of accolades since joining NASCAR in 2011. Last season, he became the first Mexican driver to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, finishing fifth in the championship standings. This season, Suárez became the first foreign-born driver to lead the points in any of the three NASCAR national Series, topping the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings for six consecutive weeks. He is the current points leader in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Suárez, 24, has quickly climbed the NASCAR ladder system throughout his career, with full-time stops in the NASCAR Mexico Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East before joining the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2015 season.

During his four years (2011-14) in the NASCAR Mexico Series, Suárez won 10 races and finished in the top 10 in championship points in all four of his seasons, including a runner-up championship finish in 2013.

In two full-time seasons in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Suárez won three races and finished third in the final standings in 2013.

Suárez had scored six runner-up finishes in the national series prior to his win on Saturday.

With the victory, Suárez becomes only the fifth Latino driver to win a NASCAR national series race, joining Frank Mundy, Juan Pablo Montoya, Aric Almirola and Nelson Piquet Jr. NASCAR Next is an industry-wide initiative designed to spotlight to best and brightest rising young stars in racing. NASCAR Drive for Diversity, operated by Rev Racing, is an academy-style development program for female and multicultural drivers and crew members who have the potential and determination to succeed at the highest levels of NASCAR.

-- Press release courtesy of NASCAR


Below is the full transcript from Suarez' post-race press conference:

DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st

How does it feel to get your first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory?

“I just have no words honestly. I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now honestly. I can’t thank these guys enough for all the hard work – Joe Gibbs Racing for having the confidence in me along with Toyota, Telcel Mexico, Coca-Cola and everyone who helped put this program together. I have no words to describe what I’m feeling right now.”

How were you able to come back from the speeding penalty?
“This machine is unbelievable and it was unbelievably fast. Everyone on this 19 car, this Toyota Camry, did an amazing job. Definitely the fastest car out there. I just have no words to describe what I’m feeling right now. It’s just unbelievable and to win this weekend with my friend Erik Jones and for the loss of his Dad, it’s just unbelievable. I would like to dedicate this win to him.”

What were you hearing over the radio on the final lap?

“They said to just keep looking out front and driving hard like you’ve been doing all day. ‘Crazy’ (Chris Osbourne) up there, my spotter, did an amazing job all day long keeping me calm because after the penalty I was so disappointed in myself. That’s what happens when you have a fast car. I also have to thank XFINITY for this great series.”

How were you able to pass Kyle Busch to win this race?
“That was a very, very fast race car. We had a penalty at the beginning of the race and that was my bad. Then since practice we had a little issue with the clutch and we thought we fixed it and then in the second half of the race it came back again, but that will happen when you have a really fast car. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and everything they’ve been doing to build really fast race cars and I’m just very proud to be part of this family and this organization.”

How hard were you racing Kyle Busch in the closing laps?
“Honestly, I was trying as hard as possible – I was driving a little more on the edge. Honestly, I was maybe risking a little more than I should have. Everything was about the win so I was trying as hard as possible and it seemed like we were good in points, but not very good in wins. I was just very hungry and I know this team was at the same spot, we were very hungry to win races and finally we got the first one.”

Is this as good as you expected it would be?
“This is a dream for sure.”


DAVID WILSON, president, Toyota Racing Development

How special is this win for Toyota?

“This is certainly a monumental win for NASCAR frankly, not just Toyota and not just Joe Gibbs Racing, not just Daniel Suarez. This is a historic win, but it also for Toyota is kind of a neat bookend because it was here in Michigan July 31, 2004 where we won our first national series race. It seems like just the other day, but Daniel’s win today is now our 353rd national series win. For Daniel to do this, obviously we knew it was coming, it couldn’t have been scripted better because he had to beat some heavy hitters out there – Kyle Busch and Erik Jones, Joey Logano – he didn’t do it at a standalone event. Couldn’t be happier for Daniel. He’s such a great spokesperson for the sport of NASCAR and for Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s a likeable guy – who doesn’t like Daniel Suarez? Who doesn’t root for Daniel Suarez? We’re all very happy.”

Have you heard from the upper management at Toyota?

“Certainly all of our phones have been blowing up. I think the CEO of ARRIS has already talked to Daniel (Suarez) and I’m assuming there have been many calls and texts and tweets. I’m sure there will be more to come and I know this is going to be an exciting week ahead for Daniel.”

When did you get to know Daniel Suarez?
“We met Daniel (Suarez) a couple years ago and got to see him run in the Truck Series with Kyle Busch and when you get to know Daniel, he’s such a warm and inviting personality. I work on Volkswagens as well, so we talk Volkswagens together. He is such an engaging personality, but what’s special about Daniel is he had to win it today and how many times has he finished second to Kyle Busch or Erik (Jones). He went out there and took it and that for him I’m sure is what makes this special. That’s what he wanted to do, he wanted to beat the best and serve notice that he is a truly talented driver.”

What does it mean to have Kyle Busch as a mentor for these young Toyota drivers?

“He’s (Kyle Busch) been very unselfish and I don’t think people realize that in Kyle Busch, but he came to winner’s circle today and we know how much Kyle Busch hates to finish second. That’s what makes him as good as he is, but he certainly had the grace to come by and give Daniel (Suarez) a hug and shook the hands of every one of those crew men. Kyle is a champion and he is also part of Toyota’s driver development program. He makes seats available for these young men and women and honestly one of the biggest challenges we have as a manufacturer going forward is finding enough seats for all this talent that we have in the pipeline right now. It’s a heck of a problem to have and the reality is that we won’t be able to keep everybody, but everyone that saw the truck race last night, we’ve got two or three kids that are coming big time in that series as well. It’s a tremendous problem to have, but to your point, having Kyle Busch Motorsports and Kyle Busch there to help facilitate there and having the Venturini team there and having Keith Kuntz and his group in the USAC Series, all of these leaders and teams are part of the success that we’re having today at the top level of NASCAR.”

How many top finishes does a young driver need to get before they get the victory?

“It has been so close and I think on a human level you worry about any driver that takes the time to notch that first win and has to endure the top-fives and the seconds and the thirds. It’s not been easy for Daniel (Suarez), he’s a competitor and he’s a nice guy, but make no mistake, he’s a competitor. What is remarkable I think is that he has had the strength and he hasn’t waivered. He hasn’t gotten down on himself or his team and he goes every week with the notion that he is going to win that race. Today he won it.”

What are your thoughts on what Erik Jones has been through?

“We love Erik Jones. We love him, we love his family and we were all thinking of him. This week has been very difficult. Erik made a point of being in that race car today and it was important to him. He did it to honor his father and I’m sure everyone has seen the beautiful letter that he wrote to his father. Heart breaks for the Jones family, but Erik is a tougher kid and we’ll be there for him.”

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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