Texas Motor Speedway

NASCAR's next trailblazer: Why Daniel Suarez must win more than Danica Patrick

Daniel Suarez will make his 42nd NASCAR Cup start this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Daniel Suarez will make his 42nd NASCAR Cup start this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Special to the Star-Telegram

Daniel Suarez has made 41 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He’s had an average finish of 16.9.

Danica Patrick had an average finish of 24.1 in her five full-time Cup seasons.

Suarez, like Patrick, is trying to become a trailblazer in the sport. He's the circuit's lone Mexican driver.

Patrick opened eyes and doors for women to enter the sport, and remained one of the most popular drivers despite never having a top-five run in 191 Cup races.

Suarez wants to show a way for Hispanics to succeed at racing’s highest level. But he understands he has to put up better results than Patrick to make a greater impact.

“You need to be successful,” said Suarez, who made an appearance at the Consulate de Mexico in Dallas on Wednesday to promote Texas Motor Speedway’s race weekend next month (April 6-8).

“Fans like to have their driver win races and be successful, or at least keep improving. That’s something that we have to keep working hard on. I can’t really comment a lot about Danica, but she was really great for the sport. She was helpful to bring more women into NASCAR and she had a great career.”

Anyone affiliated or partnered with NASCAR would like to believe Suarez can help make a similar impact on the Hispanic community. This is a guy who has risen up the ranks of NASCAR the right way.

He won three NASCAR Xfinity races in 2016 before being promoted to a full-time Cup ride by Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017. As a rookie last year, Suarez had one top-5 and 12 top-10 runs.

As stated, Patrick never finished in the top-5 and had just seven career top-10s in her Cup career.

“It’s important that he has success because all of us follow winners more than we do people that are running 15th or 20th,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “If we want Hispanic fans to really fall in love passionately with our sport, it sure helps if Daniel is winning races and contending for championships.

“Nothing would be more thrilling to me than to hand him his first Cup trophy April 8 at our track.”

Gossage joked that he may even bring his screwdriver to the track on race day to personally help Suarez. He understands how important it is to reach the Hispanic demographic.

So does everyone associated with the race.

Fox Sports Latin America announced Wednesday that it would broadcast both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race April 7 and the NASCAR Cup race April 8 in Spanish to more than 40 countries and territories in Central and Latin America. It's the first time this has happened in the track's 22-year history.

The races will be televised on Fox Sports 3 in all Central and Latin American countries with the exception of Brazil.

“This is significant. It increases the reach of these races about four-fold,” Gossage said. “It makes sense. We’re in Texas, we’re not in some Midwest or Northeast city, so in Texas we’re close to Mexico.

“So it’s all the more important for Daniel to do well. He’s important to the future of this sport.”

For Suarez, he didn’t find Victory Lane in the Xfinity Series until his 48th career race. He’ll make his 42nd career Cup start this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but isn’t delusional as to when he’ll find Victory Lane.

After all, Suarez isn’t off to the greatest start this season with just one top-10 run and an average finish of 21.8 in the first five races.

“Today, we are far off,” Suarez said. “But I can tell you the second part of the year, that’s going to change. The second part of the year, I’m going to be looking for that first victory I’m sure.

“Momentum in this sport is so important and momentum is not something that we have right now.”

Gossage and Suarez would like him to find some momentum in a hurry. Texas is the perfect track for him to get on track.

Suarez finished 19th in last spring’s race and 14th in the fall. This is also the closest track to Suarez’s hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, so he’ll have plenty of familiar faces around him.

As Suarez put it, “It’s like a home race for me.”

The hope is more Hispanics feel the same way in the coming years.

The yellow race car brought onto the stage at the Texas Motor Speedway's media day looked very familiar to racing fans in attendance, including three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford. It was a replica birthday cake version of his fam

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