NEWTON, Iowa – Daniel Suarez had his breakout moment last weekend, holding off Kyle Busch at Michigan to become the first Mexican winner in NASCAR national series history.
Suarez can make even bigger history this year if he keeps racing as well as he has.
Suarez will enter the Xfinity stand-alone race Sunday at Iowa Speedway atop the standings through 13 races in a bid to become the first foreign driver to win a NASCAR series championship.
"I knew that, but I never think about that," Suarez said. "I just try to do my thing, drive fast, be competitive and win races."
Even though Suarez is part of just a small group of Latin-Americans to find success in NASCAR, it seems as though he's been preparing for a career in racing his entire life.
Suarez, 24, grew up around cars in Monterrey, learning the ins and outs while hanging out in his father's car restoration shop. Suarez began racing when he was 11, and by the time he was a teenager it was clear he had a future in the sport.
Suarez initially believe he would try to make a go of it in open-wheel racing with an eye on Formula 1. But TELMEX, the telecommunications giant based in Mexico City, was looking for a Latin-American driver to sponsor in NASCAR and saw Suarez as the perfect fit.
Suarez didn't speak English when he moved to North Carolina roughly five years ago.
But his grasp of the language soon coincided with his grasp of stock cars.
Suarez spent four years in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series and the Mexico Series. His first win came in Mexico City in 2012, and he followed that up a year later with a victory at Columbus Motor Speedway in 2013.
"In the beginning, I wasn't very sure if this was what I wanted to do. But when I tried it the first time, I figured out how difficult it was. So I just started to try harder, and once I got that first victory I just fell in love with this style of racing," Suarez.
Suarez landed a full-time ride in the Xfinity Series in 2015 with Joe Gibbs Racing, posting 18 top-10s in 33 races. But he's improved markedly this season, finishing in the top 10 in 11 of the first 13 races.
"It's just experience. Knowing the race tracks, knowing my team, knowing the drivers," Suarez said.
Suarez's win at Michigan made him the most buzzed about driver of the week, especially with the Sprint Cup Series off until next weekend.
Suarez had about as many media obligations in the past few days as he had his entire young career.
But rather than being worn down by the attention, Suarez said he had fun with it.
"I'm very proud to be a Latino-American driver. I'm very lucky to be able to represent people all over Latin America. That's something really cool for me," Suarez said. "I really feel lucky to be in this position."