NASCAR is known as a popular sport in the United States, but that popularity continues to grow in other countries as well.
In 2004, NASCAR established a touring series in Mexico and has since worked at growing popularity in the country. A strategy was put together three years ago in how to bring forth the content to generate the popularity, which includes discussions of a NASCAR Hispanic TV Show. Drivers of Mexican decent have been breaking into the NASCAR ladder divisions, as well, with Carlos Contreras one of the first to break the barrier.
“I think it’s everything,” Daniel Suarez said of the popularity growth. “It’s all the work that NASCAR has been putting together for the last several years. I remember when I first got here four years ago, I was nobody. I was just racing in Mexico and trying to learn English, and then learn everything about racing in the US. NASCAR had a huge interest in me even when I wasn’t winning races, or doing great to get the support. Like I said, I was very lucky to be in this position and I am even luckier to be able to represent all the Latin American fans in the US, and pretty much everywhere in the world.”
This past season, Suarez became the latest to break into the XFINITY Series, racing for Joe Gibbs Racing. With sponsorship behind him from Arris, it seemed that the sky was the limit, attracting attention from all fronts. He also matched it with a level of success, finishing fifth in points with eight top-five finishes. With a successful driver to follow, it has only pushed the popularity even further. Suarez contributes that to a combination of everyone working together in the right direction to take the sport to more people.
The sport is breeding out to more people, even increasing the attendance at some tracks, as Mexicans made the trip to the United States this past season year to take in event action themselves. At Texas Motor Speedway, Suarez welcomed 20 of his friends to watch him compete in two events.
“That was great,” he commented. “I remember they used to come to the track to watch me race go-karts and the regional series in Mexico, and now they put together a group of friends in some cars and drove nine hours from Mexico to Texas to just watch the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, and the NASCAR XFINITY Race on Saturday.”
Suarez will once again run the full XFINITY Series schedule along with a limited Truck Series schedule in 2016, per Coach Joe Gibbs at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Suarez feels the success will be even bigger in 2016, just by how much he was able to grow as a driver through this past season.
“I really think the biggest thing is where we were in February, and where we are now. I think it was a huge change, huge gain for sure,” he said. Back in February, I didn’t know if I was ready to be at this level. Last year, I was racing in the NASCAR Mexico Series and K&N Series. It’s a very different level so I was very lucky to get my first opportunity full-time with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, one of the best teams in the sport. I’m very happy to have the opportunity with them and Arris and Toyota, and everyone that made it possible to where we are right now.”
To take the program to the next level, Suarez added that he feels that they have the speed, but need to keep working at their programs as there are other little things that could be improved upon.
“I think if we can put ourselves in the right position to be strong and be persistent, I feel like we’re going to be knocking on the door,” he stated. “Like I said, I feel like the first half of the year we were one team, and the second half of the year we were such a different team. If we can be just a little bit better for 2016, we can have a shot.”