The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Daniel Suarez of Joe Gibbs Racing. I spoke with Suarez at Texas Motor Speedway.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
I really feel like you need to have some natural ability, but at this point of the sport — in the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — I feel like most of the drivers have the same ability and it all depends on how hard the team and the driver work for every single race.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
It’s hard to answer that question. I’m just trying to make my way into the sport and trying to be successful. Those are great names of the sport and they’re actually names I grew up looking at. For me, it would be very good if, someday, fans of these guys started to support me.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
For myself, it’s just staying away from family for that long. My family is not in North Carolina or in the United States. And with the schedule we have, it’s difficult to travel every week to Mexico to see my family. That’s maybe one of the toughest parts.
4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
Yes. Sure, no problem. Actually, I like that. Just 30 minutes ago, I saw a kid walking from the parking lot and he had a Suarez T-shirt. I stopped and signed his shirt. So I like that a lot.
What was his reaction?
He was scared at the beginning, but he was kind of surprised. I just like doing those kind of things.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
I really feel like NASCAR has got everything covered pretty well. I don’t know, maybe seven championships for Jimmie Johnson? That’s a pretty big deal. I’m not sure if someone is going to get that done again or (win) five consecutive championships. I grew up watching a lot of that. I feel like it got a lot of coverage — that’s not the right answer to the question — but it’s a pretty big deal for me.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
There’s a thing there with you where you’re always asking him for help.
Yeah. There is always something. Everyone on my team has been very good, but Kyle has been very good to me. We’ve spent some good time together. The last couple weeks, we’ve been working out on Tuesdays. That’s been kind of fun, working out with him.
Does he always text you back?
He texts me back, and if for some reason he doesn’t, I call him. (Laughs)
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
I think most of the race car drivers have a good attitude and a good personality. We’re always having fun and enjoying this. We do this every weekend. If you don’t enjoy this and have fun with interviews and stuff, you’re going to get tired of it. So I feel like we are (entertainers), yes.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
I think (of) respect. I read somewhere this week where drivers are like elephants — we never forget what happened. And that’s very, very true. I still remember every single person who hit me when we were racing go-karts, and I hit them back the next week. So I know who races me clean and I know who races me with respect and I know who races me aggressively all the time — and I race them back the same way.
So have you ever flipped the middle finger?
Uh, yes. I don’t remember who it was last year, but I did it a couple times.
9. You just touched on this a big, but some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
Yes, that’s what I mean with respect. Sometimes you’re running fifth and you’re slower than the guy in sixth, but he can’t pass you. You have to just try to help him a little bit and maybe next weekend or maybe later in the race, you’re going to be better than that guy and he won’t give you a hard time to get that position. I feel like how you race people is how they’re going to race you.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
Carlos Slim. He’s a great guy and a good friend. I think my first dinner with him was when I was maybe 17 or 18 years old — I was never so scared. But now we’re good friends.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
Sometimes just to be more patient. I’m very hard on myself and I push myself very hard, and when the results are not coming together, I just get mad to myself — and that’s not a good thing. Sometimes you just have to move forward instead of getting stuck a little bit. Maybe that’s something I have to improve.
12. The last interview was with Kasey Kahne. He wanted to know how living in North Carolina compares to living in Mexico and how you’ve adjusted.
It’s really different. In the beginning, my first couple years living in the U.S., it was very tough. I didn’t have money, I didn’t have family, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t speak the language. It was tough, but I had a dream in my head, and I wanted to work so hard for it. Luckily, it worked out well.
I think living away from family and everyone you grew up hanging out with and living around, that’s difficult. But you just start again and start making friends. Now in racing, I don’t have a lot of time to be in North Carolina — just a few days a week.
It’s been a big challenge, but right now, honestly, if you asked me, “Daniel, would you move back to Mexico?” I will say no. I prefer to stay in North Carolina, I love North Carolina and hopefully I can bring my family more often.
Do you have a question for the next interview?
As race car drivers, we’re always competing against each other. If a driver that is competitive asks you for advice, would you tell that driver everything, 100 percent? How much are you going to help that driver out to be successful on the racetrack? Because eventually, maybe he can beat you out.
This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!