Daniel Suarez receives hero’s welcome in Mexico City

Daniel Suarez
Daniel Suarez

MEXICO CITY — A NASCAR championship aside, Daniel Suarez is still making his name known in the United States.

In his native Mexico, his name is etched in gold.

He’s a rock star, the kind of guy who draws large crowds of adoring fans, each one seeking an autograph or selfie or handshake or high-five.

Need proof?

Just look at the crowd that packed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday. Suarez served as the grand marshal of the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series exhibition race, continuing a whirlwind celebration that hasn’t stopped since he won the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship last month.

Suarez could barely take a step without posing for a picture, signing an autograph or hearing the words "felicidades campeon (translation: congratulations, champion)."

"I was expecting something good, but this was great," said Suarez, shortly after a large group of photographers captured a photo of him posing with the Mexican flag. "Every time I talk about this, I feel very, very happy for all the fans, all the teams and everyone who has been helping me to get to this point — the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship."

Suarez went out of his way to show his appreciation to fans who came to see him in Mexico City. After being interviewed over the public address system, Suarez slowly walked down the length of the frontstretch and waved to all of his fans.

Chants of "Dani! Dani! Dani!" could be heard as a beehive of photographers followed his every step.

It’s no shock that Mexican fans know him well.

The 24-year-old from Monterry, Mexico, was the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series Rookie of the Year in 2010. He finished third in the championship battle in 2012 and runner-up in 2013.

His star power grew in the process.

Such potential made him an inaugural member of the NASCAR Next program, NASCAR’s initiative that spotlight’s the sport’s rising young stars.

And now he’s a champion, basking in the glory he earned during the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Along the way, Suarez balanced the weight of expectations with the weight of his country and found the road to success.

The reception he received on Sunday is just the latest manifestation of a champion’s just reward. He’ll continue to race for Mexico … and more.

"We’re not just talking about Mexico; we’re talking about the entire Latin American community," Suarez said. "That’s something that is unbelievable. I feel very lucky for being a Mexican driver racing in the U.S. and hopefully I can do that for a long time."

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