Daniel Suárez on his dream of NASCAR in Mexico, his relationship with Max Verstappen and more: 12 Questions

Each week, The Athletic asks the same 12 questions to a different race car driver. Up next: Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez, who won his first career NASCAR Cup Series race last month at Sonoma Raceway.

1. How do you feel about people reclining their seats on airplanes?

I don’t have a problem because I do it all the time. I’m the kind of guy where I’m reclining my seat even before we take off and then they come to me to move it back (up). Then when they go sit down and we’re about to take off, I put it back so it’s more comfortable. I’m the one that’s a pain, so I can’t really complain on that one.

2. How often do you get recognized at the grocery store?

I don’t go to grocery stores all the time. But probably 20 or 30 percent of the time. If I go to a grocery store three or four times a month, probably once.

Well, you guys are always cooking good food, it seems like.

Julia (Piquet, his longtime girlfriend) is. I’m not a very good cook.

You’re just eating the food.

I’m eating the food. She’s the one cooking the great stuff.

3. On a scale of one to 10, how good are you at replying to text messages in a timely manner?

I will say a nine. I never wait days. I try to do it as quick as I can. Unless I’m really busy doing stuff. But for the most part, it’s the same day.

How do you do that? A lot of guys say, “Oh, I can’t do it. I’m terrible at it.”

For me, it’s a little bit of respect. Unless it’s something that doesn’t require a response. I’m big into emojis, so sometimes I just do a thumbs up. But when it requires a response, I do it fairly quickly.

4. What is the best way to get out of a conversation with someone who won’t stop talking?

I just say I don’t speak English. (Laughs) And I just move on and get the freak out of there.

Man, that can be awkward. I struggle with those moments. Because for me, it’s very difficult to fake myself with my face. If I’m not liking something or I’m not comfortable doing something, you can see it. You will be able to tell.

You’re not a good liar.

No, no. I’m not a good liar. I tell you things the way they are.

“Sir, we’re still on the tarmac. Please put your seat back up.” (Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today)

5. If you could only pick one form of social media to use and drop all the rest, which would it be?

I love Instagram. I like the pictures. I like to see car stuff. I use a lot of the hashtags for stuff I am passionate about. So it’s fun.

6. What advice would you give someone who is having a hard time getting over a mistake they’ve made?

Well, I believe mistakes are extremely necessary to be able to be successful in whatever it is that you want to do. (Whether) that’s racing, soccer, volleyball, whatever that may be, you’re gonna make mistakes through other ways. Don’t see that as something bad; see that as part of the process. I don’t believe anyone out there has been perfect from the outgoing. It takes failure and mistakes to make greatness. So it’s part of the process. Just trust the process.

7. This is a wild-card question where I’m mixing it up for each driver. You and Max Verstappen are dating sisters (Julia and Kelly Piquet). I saw you at the F1 race in Miami. What’s your relationship with Max been like? Do you ever talk to him? Have you gotten to sit down and chat?

Yeah, we actually got to know each other way more at the Miami race. He’s a great guy. He’s been very successful and he’s very smart. Especially for his age, he’s extremely smart, very focused, very calm. Which I’m not surprised. I mean, he’s been in Formula One already for seven years or so. And he shows that. He shows how mature, smart and calm he is. He’s very easygoing, like you’re talking to any other race car driver in the Truck Series. Very easygoing guy. I have a lot of respect for him.

So were you able to talk about your different series and all that kind of stuff? Like the differences and similarities between NASCAR and F1?

Yeah, we actually talked quite a bit about that. And believe it or not, even before he knew about me, he follows NASCAR. He enjoys it, and he thinks it’s very crazy and it’s a lot of fun to watch. So now he follows a little bit more, paying a little more attention to the 99 (Suárez’s car). It’s fun (to see) he’s doing everything he’s doing in Formula One and being very, very successful, I’m doing my thing in NASCAR and once in awhile, maybe in the offseason, we can get together and have a little fun outside of racing.

8. If someone blatantly wrecked you to win a race, would you interrupt their celebration?

No, I wouldn’t. Well, it’s hard to tell. I will say no because I’m very cool right now. Maybe in the heat of the moment, it will be different.

But I’m the kind of person where I never forget things. I still remember people who have moved me from 10 years ago. I have a very bad memory, but when it comes to racing, I remember everything. I feel like most of the time people race you the way you race them. So if somebody moves me for the win in what I think is a dirty move, they’re going to have a few coming.

Daniel Suarez

Max Verstappen’s favorite NASCAR driver picked up his first career Cup Series win in June at Sonoma. (Stan Szeto/USA Today)

9. What movie do you think you’ve seen the most times over the last year?

I watched “Fast & Furious” a couple times last week because it was on TV. So maybe one of those.

That’s funny, because you’re not the first person to say that this year. Because it seems like they’re always on TV.

They’re always on TV! I can’t remember which channel it was, but it was on TV on Friday and then I was watching the same channel the next day and it was on TV again, so I watched it again.

10. When you think about NASCAR five years from now, what are you the most optimistic about and what worries you the most?

Honestly, there is not one thing that worries me the most. I feel like NASCAR is going in an amazing direction. If you look at NASCAR right now and you see NASCAR where it was probably three or four years ago, I feel like we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

One of the things that excites me the most is, honestly, having an opportunity to maybe go international. It would be like a dream for me to race in my country (Mexico) and maybe in Canada. These are two amazing countries we have next door. That will be very, very special. I have never raced over there at this level in front of all my people. The closest it gets is California or Texas or places like that, but never in front of all the people who saw me grow in the NASCAR Mexico Series and stuff like that. So that will be amazing to go international.

11. A magic genie appears and offers you the chance to go back to the beginning of your racing career and start all over. But the catch is you get to retain all of the knowledge and experience you have now. So do you accept this offer to go back or do you just stay where you are?

I would go back, man. You know, I don’t come from a racing family. I’d say I have learned 80 percent of the stuff I know on my own, just by making mistakes and grinding and understanding by myself. My father, he’s not a race car driver. He has a restoration shop, so he has taught me a lot. But when he comes to racing, it’s hard for him to teach me a lot because he doesn’t know much.

I say this to Julia all the time: If one day we have a kid and it happens he or she is interested in racing, it will be very cool for me to try to tell him or her all the experiences I have had in my life . Because many of these experiences, I have had to learn them the hard way. If I could go back — not too far, only five years back — with the experience I have today, it would be way different.

12. Each week I ask a driver to give me a question for the next person. The last one was with Martin Truex Jr. and he wants to know about your first win — not only how it felt, but he was wondering if it changed you. And if it didn’t, why not?

I feel like it changed me a little bit. I’m the kind of driver where I’ve been always very confident in myself. I have always trusted myself. That’s kind of the base of everything, just having that confidence you can do it. But it’s one thing to know yourself you can win races. It’s another thing for everyone to know you are a winner and you’ve already done it.

And honestly, I feel lighter. I feel like I took a huge weight off my shoulders and now I don’t have to prove I can do it. I know I can and everyone knows that. Now we just have to go out there and repeat it. So it hasn’t changed me, but it just feels so much better, like a huge relief off of my shoulders.

The next interview I’m doing is with Denny Hamlin. Do you have a question I can ask Denny?

I have known Denny very well from being teammates (at Joe Gibbs Racing). And I’m very curious to know how he manages to split his time between being a race car driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and being an owner at 23XI.

I find myself as a race car driver, I sometimes don’t have a lot of time during the week. And very often I think to myself, “Man, I wonder how he’s doing it, because he has to play two roles.” I’m just wondering how he’s managed all his time and if he believes maybe 23XI has taken a little bit of the time from racing — or maybe not. I don’t know. Maybe he’s learning from one thing that he can share with the other.

I don’t know how he manages to be able to make both work and make everyone happy, because you have to make not only your sponsors happy who you’re driving for, but also your sponsors who you have a partnership with at 23XI. So how has he managed to do all these things at the same time?

(Top photo of Suárez and his girlfriend, Julia Piquet: Stan Szeto/USA Today)


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