Will Daniel Suarez's second NASCAR Cup win come in Tootsie's car in Nashville Ally 400?

·4 min read

NFL players used to go to Disney World after winning the Super Bowl. Daniel Suarez did better than that after winning the last NASCAR Cup Series race on June 12 at Sonoma Raceway.

Suarez, who became the first Mexican driver to win in the series, immediately went on vacation to Mexico.

"It was like a dream come true; was very special to be able to go to back to Mexico for the off weekend after winning the race," Suarez told The Tennessean Thursday. "The people in Mexico were happy to see me. They knew what we accomplished. These are the kind of times it's very important to be able to look back on and realize how fortunate I am to be able to be doing what I'm doing."

What Suarez, 30, will do next is try to build on his success at the second annual NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 Sunday (4 p.m., NBC) at Nashville Superspeedway.

"There is less pressure to win after getting that first win at Sonoma, but we still have to perform and stay at that same competitive level," said Suarez, who was born  in Monterrey. "This race is very special to us as well for a lot of other reasons. Nashville is a very big deal for me and everyone at Trackhouse Racing."

A NASCAR LEGEND: NASCAR legend Bruton Smith, whose company owns Nashville Superspeedway, has died at 95

DALE JR'S EXPECTATIONS: How Hendersonville's Josh Berry is living up to Dale Earnhardt Jr's expectations in NASCAR

SCHEULE: NASCAR at Nashville Superspeedway: Full weekend schedule, TV info for races

Nashville ties

It's special because Trackhouse Racing, in just its second year, is co-owned by Justin Marks, who lives in Nashville, and entertainer Armando “Pitbull” Perez. Marks plans to move the team  for NASCAR from North Carolina to Nashville in 2023.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge located in the heart of the Music City's entertainment district is the primary sponsor for Suarez's No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro.

“We’re providing opportunities for people to re-think the business model of what a race team is," Marks said. "That’s why we’ve set up shop in Nashville. Our goal is to have a race shop here and to be kind of the professional racing sports in Nashville. What we’re trying to do is bring something different and unique to tell a story, to transcend the sport; take NASCAR and use the platform but to tell a bigger story."

Transforming NASCAR

Daniel Suarez celebrates his victory in a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Daniel Suarez celebrates his victory in a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

With three top-5 finishes this season Suarez, the only Latino driver in the Cup Series, is leading the effort to transform NASCAR, which has welcomed cultural change in recent years. He was one of the first participants in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, which strives to create a more inclusive environment in the sport.

Last year's Ally 400 winner Kyle Larson is an Asian American and also a graduate of the Drive for Diversity program.

When asked if he had realized the magnitude of becoming the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race Suarez smiled and said, "I think so; I've been reading that in a few newspapers."

"It's been good. It's important to continue to work very hard, continue to break records and be successful. But at the same time it's important to enjoy the moment that we have had in the last 10 days."

Suarez has already helped NASCAR take a big step forward in terms of inclusion and expanding its brand, said NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., and his continued success will keep it trending in that direction.

"For me personally, I’ve always wanted the sport to be more appreciated globally," Earnhardt said. "For it to have a global following, we have to have a more diverse group of drivers competing from all over the world. You could see there was a lot of excitement, a lot of interest, and a lot of support for Daniel as he was trying to win that race (in Sonoma), as he was closing in on the final laps."

The early years

Suarez started turning heads in the sport long before his win at Sonoma. He became the first foreign-born national series champion in NASCAR in 2016 with his Xfinity Series title when he was with Joe Gibbs Racing.

"I've seen his talent from when he first kind of showed up like maybe 8, 9 or 10 years ago when he was running in the ARCA Menards Series East," said FOX NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds.

"You could tell he was very smooth and very talented and it seemed like he was very smart. He tended not to overextend his equipment, to take what it would give him on any given day. When he went to Joe Gibbs Racing and drove the Xfinity Series he wasn't a guy that won a ton of races, he just was that guy who was very consistent."

Reach Mike Organ at 61-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Will NASCAR winner Daniel Suarez drive Tootsies car to Nashville win?