Daniel Suarez made history at Sonoma as the first Mexican to win a NASCAR Cup Series race.
His journey to the top of NASCAR was a tough one.
Suarez revealed he didn't know English when he first came to the US and learned from cartoons.
Daniel Suarez finally achieved one of his biggest dreams with his first career NASCAR Cup Series win, a result made all the sweeter by the incredible journey it took to get there.
When Suarez first came to the United States in 2011, at age 19, not only was he an outsider in the sport, but he didn't speak English and had to learn a new culture. He was also so broke that he could not afford English classes, so he turned to American cartoons and movies.
Suarez made history in the recent Sonoma race, becoming the first driver from Mexico and just the fifth foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race. The win came in his sixth season, his 195th race, and his second year with Trackhouse Racing, co-owned by Pitbull.
After the race, Suarez talked about his journey to the top of NASCAR, including the unique way he had to learn English.
"I was always dreaming about winning in the Cup Series," I knew it was going to be a tough journey. At the time I was scared not to be able to compete because I didn't speak English. At the time I didn't have money to buy myself classes to speak English, so I had to, in a way, learn by myself by watching movies and watching cartoons and reading. It was quite a journey."
In a 2018 interview, Suarez explained that he picked cartoons and movies for specific reasons. He noted that cartoon characters speak slower and more clearly and that he could put the subtitles on during movies.
Suarez went on to explain that the language barrier was the thing that worried him the most.
"I remember one day waking up and being scared that the language barrier was going to keep me away from my goal, which was being a winner, a championship winner in the NASCAR Cup Series," Suarez said. "I didn't want that to happen. I start working extremely hard to learn English. It's been quite a journey."
Suarez's ability to "fit in" with the NASCAR community has been successful as he is one of the most liked drivers. Immediately after crossing the finish line first in Sonoma, most of the other drivers pulled up alongside his car to wave congratulations, with several looking as excited as if they had won.
—NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 14, 2022
But that doesn't mean Suarez has shied away from his Mexican roots. He is famous in the NASCAR community for greeting everybody with an emphatic "Amigo!" He also celebrated his first win with a Mexican flag and a taco piñata — something he later repeated with Pitbull.
He even donned a sombrero during introductions before the season's first race.
Suarez also noted that his challenging journey is not unique, but despite the struggles, he has made it look easy and hopes he can inspire others.
"That's why I felt like my story is very similar to many, many Mexicans, Latinos, out there coming to this country, trying to find a goal or trying to find their dream," Suarez said, later adding: "Hopefully, the success that we have had, that we're having, can fuel them as well to continue to push in whatever they want to do, that is racing, mechanic, engineering, business, whatever that may be, to continue to fuel them to know that they can do it. They just have to work hard and put in the table what they have to do.
"If I was able to make it happen, everyone out there can make it happen. So just feel very, very proud to be an example for many of them."
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