Suarez ‘wanted to prove he belonged’ in NASCAR Cup Series

Suarez, 30, earned his first Cup win in his 195th career start on Sunday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, becoming the first Mexican driver to win in the series since its inception in 1949.

Suarez’s victory was also the third in less than two seasons for Trackhouse Racing, which is co-owned by Marks, a former driver, and Grammy award-winning rapper Pitbull.

“We have a great culture at Trackhouse. Daniel checked a lot of boxes for us right away,” Marks said. “He’s an experienced Cup driver. He is a winner. When he’s been in positions to win, he’s won with his Xfinity championship and in Trucks.

“He had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove to the world he belonged in the Cup Series.”

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Suarez debuted in NASCAR competition in his native Mexico in 2009 and became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race in 2016 with his Xfinity Series victory at Michigan. He went on to win the series championship that season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

His NASCAR future seemed on a fast track.

However, just as Suarez was about to embark on a second season in Xfinity, Carl Edwards abruptly left NASCAR, leaving JGR with a Cup ride to fill for the 2017 season. The organization turned to Suarez as Edwards’ replacement.

Although there were plenty of flashes of potential, Suarez never seemed to find the same success in Cup, whether it was at JGR, Stewart-Haas Racing or Gaunt Brothers Racing.

When Marks announced the formation of Trackhouse in the fall of 2020, Suarez was his choice as the team’s first driver.

“He checked all the boxes for us and I knew he had a tremendous amount of potential, that he was a winner at this level,” Marks said. “I told him from day one, ‘This is your team, this No. 99 team is your team. You come to me and tell me anything and everything that you need. We’re going to put that behind you.’

“It’s really nice to see all that work over the last couple of years be at a place where everybody is rewarded for it.”

Asked if he thought Suarez had become discouraged and doubted his potential by the time he joined Trackhouse, Marks said, “Not for one second. Not for one second ever. I have almost never met a more determined, focused, hard-working race car driver in my 20 years in this sport.

“Every single morning he wakes up and says, ‘I am going to be the best version of myself I can be today, I’m going to do all the work I can possibly do today to win this race this weekend.’

“It’s amazing how consistent he is, how that continues, that fire continues to burn so bright even after stringing numerous tough races in a row together. He’s just very, very impressive in that regard.”

Suarez’s crew chief on the No. 99, Travis Mack, said he saw something similar when the two were first paired together last season.

“Once I met with him, I could see the drive in his face, in his eyes. Once we started becoming friends and talking to each other, I could see how hard he was working,” he said.

“He wanted this so bad. I was the same way.”