Suarez ‘living a dream’ following XFINITY title win – Nascar

RELATED: Full race results | Final Chase Grid

 

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Daniel Suarez, 24 and only two years into a NASCAR XFINITY Series career, can check another box off his career bucket list.

Series champion.

The Monterrey, Mexico, native became a winner in the series for the first time earlier this season to qualify for the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase. Saturday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he led 133 of 200 laps that made up the Ford EcoBoost 300, and survived a wild, late-race restart to become the first Latin American driver to capture a NASCAR national series title.

He is the first Joe Gibbs Racing driver to capture the series title since 2009 when Kyle Busch won the crown.

 

MORE: Joe Gibbs thrilled after Suarez win

Saturday, Suarez outran series veterans Elliott Sadler (third) and JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier (sixth) as well as JGR teammate Erik Jones (ninth) to become the series’ 27th different champion and the 34th overall.

 

In the Championship Round, the driver finishing highest wins the title. Suarez made sure no one, Chase contender or otherwise, finished in front of his orange and white No. 19 Toyota.

“I’m speechless right now,” Suarez, a graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, said as fans streamed onto the frontstretch to witness the official coronation and fireworks exploded overhead. “It’s very hard to put into words.

“I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have — my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now. They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me and right now we are just living a dream.”

Suarez’s parents were on hand to watch their son capture the championship at Homestead.

Alejandro Suarez, Daniel’s dad, said he has personally watched his son race “maybe 10 times” since Daniel came to the U.S. to embark upon a NASCAR career.

“It’s a dream. It’s a dream and tomorrow I will tell you (what if feels like),” he said, smiling.

Success so quickly wasn’t expected

“Maybe next year, maybe 2-3 years,” the father said. “But not this year. But Daniel works hard.”

 

MORE: Suarez’s long road to the title

Jones will head off to begin a premier series career in ’17, already having been named to drive the No. 77 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing as that organization expands from one to two teams.

Suarez, talented as he is, is expected to return to JGR for another year of seasoning in the XFINITY Series. Gibbs’ group currently fields four Sprint Cup teams — for drivers Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Busch, the defending series champ.

“We’re in there now,” team owner Joe Gibbs said of Suarez’s move to the XFINITY Series, “and I think … it’s going to be pretty quick we’ll be going to Cup. I think it’s in Daniel’s hands, but obviously he’s performed so well.

“As everybody knows, it’s hard to get all that organized, but we’re working — that’s going to be our end game. That’s what we’re going to be working for.”

If Suarez is in a hurry to get to the top level, he wasn’t showing it Saturday night. He knows he gets to run against some of the premier series drivers some of the time now.

“But you never race with all of them,” he said. “So I’m pretty sure that the Cup car is going to be different, and to race with all those guys at the same time is going to be even more difficult.

“Like I said before … we have to focus on today and tomorrow is going to take care of itself.”

Today he’s a champion. Tomorrow? Who knows.

 

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