NASCAR: Mexican rising star Daniel Suarez moving up to Nationwide

2 Comments

The announcement we’ve been waiting for all summer has finally come down: Carl Edwards is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing.

But today’s also a big day for NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series and K&N Pro Series East product Daniel Suarez.

The 22-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico was also announced today to drive the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry full-time in next year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Additionally, he’ll run select Camping World Truck Series events in 2015 as well.

Suarez, an alumnus of the NASCAR Next program, has had a busy 2014 already.

In addition to running full-time and maintaining the points lead in the Toyota Series (four wins, six Top-5s, six Top-10s), he’s also ran the majority of K&N East events this year (two wins, four Top-5s, seven Top-10s in 12 starts).

He also made his Nationwide Series debut this past spring in a one-off for JGR at Richmond International Raceway, finishing 19th.

“This is crazy…This is a dream come true,” Suarez said today at JGR headquarters in North Carolina. “I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for their confidence and support in a young driver from Mexico that’s just 22 years old. Also, I can’t thank ARRIS enough for their confidence.

“This is amazing. I can’t wait to learn from all of these guys.”

Suarez’s Nationwide Series program will be supported by the Escuderia TELMEX project, which helps many Mexican drivers and their programs across multiple motorsports disciplines.

Most prominent among those are: Memo Rojas and Chip Ganassi Racing’s program in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship; Sergio Perez of Sahara Force India and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber in Formula One; and German Quiroga in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Escuderia TELMEX will also partner with JGR in its diversity program, intending to help develop Mexican and Latin American drivers in NASCAR racing.

“Daniel is here because he has the fight to be here,” Carlos Slim Domit, co-founder of Escuderia TELMEX and Chairman of the Board of Grupo Carso, said today at JGR. “It has been his life. He has given all of his effort possible to reach his dream.

“When we spoke with him when he was very, very young, we said, ‘How do you want your career to develop? Do you want to go to formula cars?’ He said, ‘No, my life is in stock [cars], and I’m going to be the first Latin champion in history in a [Sprint] Cup car.’ Today, he’s starting to reach that dream.”

After starting out in karting, Suarez began his NASCAR journey in 2008 by racing in what’s now known as the Stock V6 Series in Mexico. In 2010, he moved up to the main Toyota Series and won Rookie of the Year honors despite not running a full season.

The next year saw him go full-time in the Toyota Series and also make his debut in the American-based K&N East series. He’s competed in both leagues ever since, going as far as running a full schedule in each of them last year; Suarez finished second in Toyota Series points and third in K&N East points.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
Leave a comment

Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”