Suarez to drive with Stewart-Haas - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Suarez to drive with Stewart-Haas

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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2019 8:08 am

Matthew Becherer

Last week in this space I detailed the plethora of drivers changing teams this year and how it could affect their upcoming season. At the end of that column I mentioned that Stewart-Haas Racing hadn’t yet announced who would replace Kurt Busch in the No. 41 car.

Well it’s no longer a mystery as the announcement came earlier this week when the team introduced Daniel Suarez as the new driver of the No. 41.

Suarez is joining Stewart-Haas after racing for Joe Gibbs Racing in both the Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series for the last four years. As a member of Stewart-Haas, Suarez finds himself joining what was the most dominant team in NASCAR last season.

In 2018, Stewart-Haas’ quartet of drivers combined to win 12 races – more than any other team in the sport. All four of their drivers also made the playoffs and advanced to the MENCS Round of 8 with Kevin Harvick representing the team in the Championship 4 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Suarez has yet to win a race in the Monster Energy Series and perhaps the change in team will work to his advantage and help his young career flourish.

Although Suarez has not scored a win in NASCAR’s premier series, he has still accomplished many great feats on the track and is paving the way for minorities who are interested in competing in NASCAR.

A native of Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez joined NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2013. Drive for Diversity is a great initiative in NASCAR that helps the sport engage people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The program has provided a path for minorities and females to get involved in the sport whether it’s as a driver, pit crew member or front office employee. 

Living here in South Florida – one of the most diverse areas in the United States – the Drive for Diversity program has done a lot over the years to help grow our sport and track. In fact, Homestead-Miami Speedway attracts fans from more than a dozen countries for Ford Championship Weekend each year, in part because of the program’s success with drivers like Suarez.

After prospering in the program for two years, Suarez signed with Joe Gibbs Racing and secured a ride in the Xfinity Series where he would begin to make history. While a member of Joe Gibbs Racing, Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a race in any of NASCAR’s three national series – Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Series – when he won a Xfinity Series race at Michigan.

He continued to make history right here in Miami when he won the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, becoming the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR

championship.

Watching Suarez rise through the NASCAR ranks has been an

incredible journey to see. As he continues to make his mark in NASCAR, his success has not only benefited him, but many future drivers. His

accomplishments have helped speak to the validity of the Drive for Diversity program and inspire young drivers to get involved in NASCAR.

With drivers such as Suarez, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson having been part of the Drive for Diversity program, the initiative has become one of NASCAR’s most popular and competitive programs. As members of South Florida, we should be proud of the fact that we have two drivers participating in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program this year.

Ernie Francis Jr., who resides in Southwest Ranches, and Nick Sanchez, a native of the Redlands, were named members of the Drive for Diversity class for the second year in a row. When Suarez signed with Stewart-Haas Racing

earlier this week I couldn’t help but think how cool it must be for Francis and Sanchez to see what someone who was in their shoes a few years ago has been able to accomplish.

I imagine it makes them feel like they can accomplish their goals and that they are heading down the right path. As teenagers, they have taken the risk of joining the program and moving away from home for the chance at a career in NASCAR. Suarez offers them a beacon of hope that they can one day compete in the Monster Energy Series and even possibly win a NASCAR championship.

While Francis and Sanchez are still years away from potentially running in one of NASCAR’s three national series, they can stay on track by watching the careers of former Drive for Diversity members. And for Daniel Suarez, who’s already one of the program’s most decorated alumni, he’ll have a chance to notch his first Monster Energy Series win in his new ride with Stewart-Haas.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Jan. 11 Fast Lane Friday, presented by Metro by T-Mobile

Jan. 11-13 NASCAR Racing Experience: Driving 101

Jan. 18-19 24 Hour Ultra Skate

Jan. 20 Performance Driving Group

Jan. 26 Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Feb. 1 Fast Lane Friday

Feb. 2-3 Chin Motorsports Car Club

Feb. 9-10 Championship Cup Series

2019 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 15

Ford EcoBoost 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 16

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 17

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship

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