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In the Hot Seat with Daniel Suarez

No doubt, Daniel Suarez seems prime for a great year with Trackhouse Racing. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

No doubt, Daniel Suarez seems prime for a great year with Trackhouse Racing. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By all means, Daniel Suarez finds himself in quite a solid situation with Trackhouse Racing. After a trying campaign last year, Suarez drives the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro entry co-owned by racing stalwart Justin Marks and famed rapper and singer Armando Christian Pérez who is best known as Pitbull.

Certainly, Daniel Suarez knows how to extract the maximum from a stock car. Without a doubt, Suarez’s shining moment thus far has to be his 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. Not only did the 29-year-old sensation win one of the most premier titles but he also became the first Mexican to emerge victorious as a champion in any level of NASCAR.

Of course, Daniel Suarez wants everyone to know that he is a competitive and determined racer and not just by his nationality. All things considered, Suarez has earned his place in NASCAR as a winning, talented, and focused competitor who battles tenaciously on any race weekend.

Above all, Daniel Suarez finally can take comfort that he’s with the best ride of his NASCAR Cup Series career. All in all, Trackhouse Racing is committed toward long term success and not just being another new team in the series. With Suarez and his team prepared and geared toward a prosperous future, the sky is truly the limit with this exciting combination.

Despite this Cup season being just 10 races old, Daniel Suarez provided an exciting and memorable moment when he was in the mix for the Food City Dirt Race victory at Bristol. Although Suarez placed fourth in that race, he proved how he and his team are genuinely here to compete with the established guard of NASCAR.

Recently, I caught up with the fifth year Cup racer as we covered a scope of different topics. Now, let’s all get “In the Hot Seat with Daniel Suarez” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Daniel, it’s been a while since we’ve last caught up. You’re now in your fifth season in the NASCAR Cup Series. And you’re making some progress with one of the newest teams in NASCAR with Trackhouse Racing. You have a top five at the Bristol dirt race. How do you evaluate your season so far?

Indeed, Daniel Suarez and his No. 99 team have showcased their prowess with a near top 10 finish at Atlanta. (Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Indeed, Daniel Suarez and his No. 99 team have showcased their prowess with a near top 10 finish at Atlanta. (Photo: Harold Hinson Photography)

Daniel Suarez : I think this season has been good. I think that, as a new group, we have had some ups and downs. But luckily, the downs haven’t been so bad. And we have learned a lot from them. So I will say that it’s been good, but I’m always looking to do better.

Tiongson : You and your team have been a really pleasant surprise. Co-owner Justin Marks mentioned to me how he was happy to see you guys contend at Bristol. Given the strength that you guys showed there, do you have a track right now that you’re saying, “Yes, this is where me and my No. 99 team can attack?”

Suarez : Definitely, I think we’re making up ground in the in the right direction. I still believe that there is a lot of things that we have to improve. But, I’m happy with where we are at. And I think that probably in a couple months, we’re going to be able to to be contending up front a little bit more.

Tiongson : Certainly, I think that you’re with a really good group of people that are committed towards long term success. I mentioned Justin Marks as one of those key principles and Pitbull as well. What does it mean to represent them on the track and help them grow?

By the same token, Daniel Suarez brings it not only for himself, but his team. (Photo: Trackhouse Racing)

By the same token, Daniel Suarez brings it not only for himself, but his team. (Photo: Trackhouse Racing)

Suarez : Yeah, I mean, I feel very fortunate to have great people around me. We have become such an amazing group that we have to keep making them proud because everyone wants to do better. Everyone wants to keep improving. And I’m starting with myself, to be honest. But we’re very, very fortunate to have people around me like Justin, Ty Norris, and all the other people.

Tiongson : With being around the team that has definitely built all of these great cars, the resources around you, there’s so much promise ahead for you guys. Your NASCAR journey has been one that I think can be best described as inspirational and relatable to people with living the American dream.

What has it been like to be a driver who’s able to reach out and connect with the Mexican and Latino communities with your racing efforts?

Suarez : It feels good. It feels very good to be different and to have to have a different background. And I’m very proud of where I came from and how I have got here. I believe that a lot of things have been accomplished but not the main thing yet [as] I want to be one of the best, not just as a Mexican, but in general, winning races and championships.

And I know I can do that. I know I have the skills and the will to do it. So we just have to grow the business together and be a little bit patient.

Tiongson : Definitely. As the time progresses. I’m sure that you and chief Travis Mack are going to see those results. When I’ve watched you guys go out there, especially with the fact that a lot of these races are show up in race and there’s no practice and qualifying, it’s quite impressive what you guys have been able to do in this transitional year where, you know, you’ve got the current schedule as it is.

Next year, you guys have that Next Gen car that is coming out. So I mean, with all the newness around you, I have to imagine that each of you lean on each other for the experiences and feedback to succeed.

Suarez : Yeah, that’s right. I mean, we’re a team. So, we have to work together and support each other and try to push each other to be better. We have a lot of new people in our team and a lot of people that are still trying to figure it out with different things.

This is a team sport and and we cannot win races and championships just by working alone. So we have to push together, I feel like we have an amazing group. Probably one of the best groups I’ve ever had so amazing, I’m very proud of that.

Tiongson : I’m sure you are. It has to help to be at a track that’s no longer empty and just competitors only. We have seen more fans back at the racetrack cheering you and your competitors on.

How thrilled and excited are you to have these fans back, at least with getting back to a resemblance of normalcy, and hopefully seeing those fans back in the infield?

Suarez : Yeah, hopefully, I mean, we have to start somewhere. I feel that we’re making ground here. And that’s always good.

Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, I feel. But, definitely, the pandemic is slowly starting to go away. And hopefully, we can go back to normal that we’ve missed.

We miss the whole weekend. And we miss the fans. This is so different, you know, it’s different to do what we do with other people. It’s extremely strange. And not just the fans, but family and friends and stuff like that. So it’s just a whole you know, thing that is different or before different. Luckily, right now, we’re in the point where slowly it’s time to go back.

Tiongson : I would imagine so and I bet too, with your group of fans, the Daniel’s Amigos, I’m sure, while it’s not the same to have no in person interactions. Like you said, we’re getting closer to that normal that we’ve all been waiting for. I’m sure it’ll be nice to talk to them and be at the racetrack with them too.

Suarez : Of course, of course, we want the fans back. But we want them back safe. We’ll have to do it the right way.

With the vaccine going on and things starting to slow down a little bit, I think people are starting to feel more comfortable and more safe. And I think we’re gonna get there. It’s a process, it’s so important. It’s a slow process, but we’ll get there.

Tiongson : Yep, absolutely. To get a little bit off track, it’s no secret, of course, that you are a big time car lover. This question comes from my five year old nephew Francisco. He wants to know, of the cars that you have worked on and collected, which one is your favorites?

Away from the track, Suarez enjoys time with girlfriend Julia Piquet. (Photo: Trackhouse Racing)

Away from the track, Suarez enjoys time with girlfriend Julia Piquet and their feline friend. (Photo: Trackhouse Racing)

Suarez : It’s hard to pick one favorite because I have a lot of memories, two different ones. You know, the Beetle that I drove all the way from Mexico to the United States and it was my daily drive for a few years when I was just in the very very beginning of my career, struggling a lot. That’s one of my favorites.

But at the same time, I still have my very first Beetle. And I have a Volks that my dad restored when I was a baby. So it’s very hard to pick one. But I definitely have a handful of favorites.

Tiongson : And I saw on Instagram he drove one of those Volkswagens around Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’m sure it’s not as quick as your No. 99 car, but it has to be pretty cool to wheel it around to a very familiar setting.

Suarez : Yeah, it’s not fast, but it’s just as cool. I had a very fun time.

Tiongson : I love seeing that on your Instagram channel, for sure. Aside from the folks that you are friends within the world of NASCAR, who are some other drivers from other racing series that you would say you’re good friends with or you at least follow when you have time to watch their races?

Suarez : Well, I have a few friends here and there. In Formula 1, Checo Perez is a good friend and Esteban Gutierrez as well. We grew up together racing go karts and he [Gutierrez] used to be in Formula 1. Patricio O’Ward in IndyCar is a very good friend.

All of us are Mexicans. So we have known each other for a while. Adrian Fernandez, he is another [friend and] Mexican. For some reason, you know, it’s kind of funny, but you asked me that question and I have a lot of friends. But the very close ones are from Mexico. So, it’s kind of funny. I’m just realizing that now.

Tiongson : Well, it’s good that you guys are the a close knit group. I mean, that’s the nice thing about different groups and nationalities is that we all have our own community, while we can still co mingle with people around us. So it’s neat that you have those friendships, not just in stock car racing, but, like you said, Formula One.

I’m sure you’re very happy for your friend, Checo, with him being in that Red Bull seat when he was not sure if he was going to have a ride late last year, so I’m sure that’s awesome to see him in such a top ride.

Suarez : Of course, of course, he’s a great guy, a great driver, very, very talented driver, very hard working person. And I’m very happy to see him succeed.

Tiongson : And I’m sure he is as well for you to your situation with Trackhouse. It’s a really exciting team that is definitely getting off the ground running really nicely. What would you consider to be the moment that you felt welcomed in NASCAR, whether it’s something very serious or something that makes you laugh and smile?

Similarly, Daniel Suarez embraces being himself. (Photo: Daylon Barr Photography)

Similarly, Daniel Suarez embraces being himself. (Photo: Daylon Barr Photography)

Suarez : Oh, I feel like I have been always welcomed. I mean, I don’t feel that NASCAR has a door closed to anyone, to be honest. A lot of people think that way, unfortunately. But I have never felt that way.

Yeah, it’s not easy. Nobody’s gonna give you anything for free or handed in your hand. But, the opportunities are there, and you have to go out there and get them. You have to work hard for them, not just as a Mexican, but as an American and as you know, anywhere you come from.

So I have always felt welcomed, not just in NASCAR, but in this country. And I’m very, very lucky to be in this position. I have had amazing opportunities. I have met a lot of great people and I have felt very, very supported most of the time, so, you know, I feel that the welcome part, it’s been there. You know, I feel very, very fortunate.

You know, for some reason, I have always liked to, to be different. To have a different car than everyone else, to have a different will than everyone else, to have different something on hand, I feel like for me to be the only Mexican in NASCAR, just for me, it just couldn’t be any better. I feel very unique. And there’s something cool to be different.

Tiongson : Oh, I like that you are your genuine self. You’re not just fitting in the mold or trying to be a typecast driver. You’re who you are. And that’s something that is so rare to see, not just in racing, but any sport. And I think that’s what makes you such a really popular driver with a lot of folks.

If a Hollywood movie company came up to you and said, “Hey, we’d like to make a Daniel Suarez movie about your life and career in NASCAR,” which actor would you choose to be you in that movie?

Ultimately, Daniel Suarez hopes to portray himself in a movie. (Harold Hinson Photography/Andrew Coppley)

Ultimately, Daniel Suarez hopes to portray himself in a movie. (Harold Hinson Photography/Andrew Coppley)

Suarez : That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I don’t know, who is the best actor. Probably myself. But, you know, talking about my story, I felt like it is a very unique one.

Everything I have to go through to get to this point, a lot of people know about it. A lot of people don’t. But, it’s something cool. And I think, I don’t know about a movie, but I think, I think something like that is gonna happen one day.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Daniel Suarez for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Drew Brown and Trackhouse Racing for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Daniel Suarez’s efforts on social media via FacebookTwitter, his official website and here on TPF! Stay tuned for a special bonus interview with Justin Marks in the coming days.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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