You know you’ve done something big and important when you hear from the president of your country.
Daniel Suarez found that out recently, a few days after he won NASCAR’s Xfinity Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Suarez, a native of Mexico who became the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national-series title, glanced down at his phone and saw a message on Twitter, as well as a text message, from Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“It was a really big deal down in Mexico,” Suarez said. “The president was super happy for me. It was so good to get that support from him and Mexico, as well as from the entire Latin America.”
Peña Nieto’s tweet above, loosely paraphrased in English, says Suarez’s success in NASCAR is a source of pride for Mexico and Latin America and congratulates him for it.
The weeks following Suarez’s championship-clinching victory Nov. 19 at Homestead were predictably hectic. He attended the Xfinity and Truck series championships banquet the following night in South Florida. Two weeks later, he went to Las Vegas for the Cup series’ season-ending gala.
Then it was off to his home country, where he was the grand marshal for an exhibition race Dec. 4 at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City, site of Suarez’s first NASCAR Peak Mexico Series win in 2012.
But as Suarez, 24, has continued to celebrate his championship, he is also looking ahead to the 2017 season, when he will certainly be among the favorites to win a second Xfinity title.
Suarez ranked near or at the top of the points standings for most of the regular season. He won his first career Xfinity race at Michigan June, and followed that with two more in the Chase (Dover and Homestead).
“The first half of the year was good; the second half was great,” Suarez said. “We have to have a better first half next season. That is the goal.”
And as for his future? Suarez is part of a talented stable of drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing. He said he has no immediate plans to move up to the Cup level, where there are no openings anyway. But, of course, that’s always the goal.
“It definitely helps to win a championship to get that shot (at a Cup ride),” Suarez said. “But I have no plans for the Cup right now. My focus is to keep winning championships wherever I’m at. That will only help me with my opportunities for the future.”