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Being a NASCAR Cup Series winner is not going to change day-to-day life for Daniel Suarez.
In the two days following his triumph Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway, things have remained simple for Suarez. He admitted he had a “good time” on the plane that returned to Charlotte, North Carolina after 5 a.m. Monday before getting his girlfriend Julia off to the airport a few hours later.
He then made a trip to the Trackhouse Racing shop to see team members who don’t travel to the racetrack. Suarez wanted to make sure they got a thank you for playing a role in his success. Shortly thereafter, he hopped on a flight to head to Mexico to visit family, which was a pre-planned getaway for the NASCAR off week.
Everything is the same, Suarez said, aside from crossing off a major accomplishment in his career. If anything, it’s his racing life that changes the most after winning.
“It definitely changes a lot when it comes to relief,” Suarez said Tuesday. “I can tell you that I feel lighter. There’s a little bit less weight on my back right now.
“It wasn’t fun to get the question, ‘Hey, when are you going to win?’ ‘Hey, your teammate is winning; why are you not winning?’ Those things eventually start adding up, and I know I’m a winning driver, and I know my team was getting better and better, and together we’re building something great. My pit crew — they just keep finding things to be better.”
Suarez led the most laps on his way to his first win and didn’t slip in the final 23 laps as he drove away from the field. The breakthrough came in his 195th series start, after numerous close calls and disappointments when having a fast race car.
“It feels good,” Suarez continued. “It just feels right. I think it took definitely a little bit longer than I thought, but I feel that, right now, we are in a place that I could only dream [of]. We’re in an amazing place with our team. We keep getting better. We keep improving. Our relationship is amazing. I feel that we’re in a very, very good place to continue to be successful the rest of the year.”
When Ross Chastain picked up two wins in the first 10 races, attention shifted to Suarez’s performance. Chastain winning wasn’t hard for Suarez or brought any sense of jealously but there was a sting after Circuit of the Americas. The No. 99 driver felt he had the best car that day after winning the first stage, but losing power steering after being hit on the restart for the second stage took him out of contention.
Heartbreak aside, Suarez and his team kept up the pace but without the desired result. In the last eight races, he has led 147 laps but now the win column is no longer empty. For how long he waited for the moment, it was just as well-received by Suarez’s peers who gave congratulatory nudges and waves after the checkered flag.
“I haven’t been able to catch up on my phone just yet, and I have over a 1,000 texts,” Suarez said. “It was pretty crazy. It’s just special. There are not a lot of people who know my entire journey, and I would say most of the drivers who stopped and congratulated me, they know that journey. They know it hasn’t been easy and I came from nothing. That I came here trying to learn the language and trying to find opportunity.
“I’m not trying to say my journey was harder than anyone else’s but my journey was different. Everyone’s journey is tough; no one has it easy. But my journey has been different and I think that a lot of people recognized that and they were happy to see me succeed.”