Daniel Suarez’s seventh-place finish at yesterday Overton’s 400 marked his third straight top ten result. For a driver who has always improved with experience, this bodes extremely well for his future in the sport.
Suarez now only sits just a few points behind highly-rated Erik Jones in the rookie points battle and has momentum on his side to challenge for that spot.
Many NASCAR fans are sleeping on Suarez as one of the stars of the future. When you discuss future champions, usually Jones, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and William Byron spring to mind well before you think of the Mexican.
Yet when you look at Suarez’s record, it is hard to argue against Suarez being included, and perhaps even being above members on this list in terms of potential.
His first season in the Xfinity Series brought a respectable eight top five finishes on his way to Rookie of the Year honours. However, it was his second season, when he was now familiar with how the Xfinity car handled on the tracks, which really showcased his ability to learn and improve.
Suarez scored 19 top fives in just 33 races in 2016. He earned three impressive victories, including a domination of the final race in Homestead, beating off the likes of Jones to the Xfinity Series championship.
Compare that to Elliott, who also ran a second season in Xfinity, and those statistics become even more impressive. Elliott won the Xfinity title in his rookie season, but actually had less top fives and a lower average finish than Suarez when both are compared during their second season.
It says a lot that Danny Swervez, Suarez’s alter-ego in Cars 3, is known for being a fast learner who works extremely hard.
“I feel like our team has been doing a very good job trying to adapt and trying to get better every weekend, and we have to keep working, keep learning from everything. Also, the racetracks are racetracks we are racing for the first time in the Cup (Series) and I feel that’s something we have to learn from and move forward.”
Pocono is so far the only track Suarez has visited twice, and the rise from 15th in his first race to seventh in yesterday’s race there bodes well for the rest of the 2017 season.
Whilst it is unlikely that Suarez will make the NASCAR Cup Playoffs – he is now effectively in a must-win situation – there’s a good chance that he will be part of the championship shake-off in years to come.
Next season, Jones joins Suarez at Joe Gibbs Racing and will provide a direct head-to-head comparison to see how both the youngsters are progressing. If Suarez manages to beat Jones in 2018, then it really would stamp home his prospects of being a Cup Series champion of the future.
Suarez’s Mexican heritage also provides huge scope for marketing for NASCAR in the future.
“A young driver like Daniel bringing the on-track and the off-track together really makes him appealing to fans across all of our demographics. He’s kind of the total package, from our standpoint.”
Jill Gregory, NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer
It’s going to be fascinating to follow Suarez’s Cup Series career unfold. If he continues the kind of development we’ve seen from him in the junior categories, and so far this season in the #19 Toyota then we may be seeing him in Victory Lane sooner rather than later.
And for a driver who’s had to battle from such difficult beginnings, speaking no English when he moved to the States, no one could say that he hasn’t earned it. Suarez is a success story NASCAR have been looking for. He may just be one of the biggest faces in the sport for years to come.