Skill. Fortitude. Passion.
To describe driver Daniel Suárez, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said those very words on Satruday. The reason France said them was because of the history Suárez made at the Menards 250 at Michigan International Speedway. Suárez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
“Daniel Suarez has competed in NASCAR for a relatively brief time, yet his impact on the sport has been immeasurable,” said France. “Combining impressive talent and an incredible personality, Daniel has attracted fans throughout North America.”
One heck of a way to win your first, congrats @Daniel_SuarezG.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) June 11, 2016
The 24 year-old from Monterrey, Mexico had shown flashes of that talent with six second-place finishes previously in NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck racing. It wasn’t a question of if for Suárez, but when would the breakthrough happen. He also became the second foreign-born driver to win on an oval track (via MRN.com). The first was Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.
The victory was also a win for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program. Begun in 2004, Drive for Diversity was created to help draw in more minorities and women to the sport, not just as drivers but in crew, sponsor and owner positions as well. The program was built similar to a 2003 program created by Joe Gibbs and NFL legend Reggie White. Each program’s focus was to increase diversity in the predominantly white sport of stock car racing.
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) June 11, 2016
Suárez joined the program in 2013. It provided the opportunity not just to race, but to race on many levels and circuits. He’s raced in NASCAR’s series in Mexico, as well as trucks and other lower-level series here in America. The program, said Suárez in 2013, exposed him to other drivers and gave him the “needed experience” and media training necessary to compete at the highest level.
A fitting moment for NASCAR too with the announcement of their partnership with RISE, a program initiative created by Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross to help promote diversity. I heard directly about the RISE program last month at the Sports PR Summit.
The partnership was announced, coincidentally, the day before Suárez’ historical win.
Progressive steps for a sport that hasn’t always been known for its diversity.
Three years after joining the Drive for Diversity program, Suárez is now an XFINITY Series race winner. The victory also helped Suárez increase his series lead over Elliott Sadler (434) and Ty Dillon (416) with 452 points.
It was an emotional moment for Suárez. “I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now,” he said in a post-race interview. No need to. His driving today said it all.
Habilidad. Fortaleza. Pasión.
— Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) June 11, 2016