For Daniel Suárez’s fans, attending a NASCAR race can be like going to a fiesta, an event full of fun, excitement and entertainment.
The first Mexican-born driver to ever compete on the Cup circuit has a growing support group, affectionately known as Daniel’s Amigos, and they track his exploits around the world and get together for several races in person.
Oftentimes, hundreds of Amigos attend meet-ups as Suárez races in NASCAR across the United States. Several of these events are sponsored by Coca-Cola, which made Suárez part of its Official Racing Family in 2017 and helped the driver formally start Daniel’s Amigos in 2019.
RELATED: More about Daniel’s Amigos
“For a while, I really wanted to do something for my community, to feel more welcome into NASCAR and the sport,” Suárez said. “I thought that after winning the (2016 Xfinity) championship, and after being in the Cup Series for a year or two, I was seeing progress but not as quick as I thought I was going to see it.”
Suárez said he worked with his sponsors and Trackhouse Racing to “give my community a unique experience” on race day. The first organized Daniel’s Amigos event was in 2019 at Auto Club Speedway, and it drew more than 500 attendees from Southern California and Mexico.
“It was really as a test,” Suárez said. “We didn’t have any expectations, we didn’t know what was going to happen after that or if it was going to be a one-time-only thing.”
Daniel’s Amigos had three official events during its first season. The COVID-19 pandemic put meet-ups on pause, but they resumed in 2021 and have become an annual tradition on the circuit.
“It really motivates me a lot because that’s my community,” Suárez said with a smile.
Arguably the greatest celebration Suárez and his Amigos had came in June 2022 when their favorite driver claimed his first-ever Cup victory on the road course at Sonoma Raceway.
Daniel still talks about the party they had afterward.
“We’re bringing brand new fans into the sport. It’s pretty special to give them this opportunity and to make them feel at home,” Suárez said. “They also made me feel (I’m at) home because 80 to 90% of them speak Spanish, so it’s very special for me to be able to do these kind of events with them. And I enjoy it.”
Many of the Amigos travel from Mexico and Central America to see their racing hero up-close at official meet-ups. Others even attend unofficial get-togethers at other Cup races, showing up with banners, Mexican flags and, of course, wearing lots of Suárez shirts. You can even spot sombreros in the grandstands, too.
“We only have the program a few times a year, but I see Daniel’s Amigos T-shirts almost every weekend,” Suárez said. “Some of these fans I see for the first time in the program, and then later, I see them again at other races. So this is special for me to be able to help move the needle when it comes to Latinos in sports.”
The 31-year-old Suárez, who came to NASCAR in 2014 — first racing in the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity series before moving full-time to the Cup circuit in 2017 — is very thankful for the support he gets from his fans.
“Something I appreciate a lot about the Latino community is that we’re very loyal to each other. Once we find out that one of us is doing something in baseball, soccer, racing, whatever that may be, we support it a lot,” Suárez said. “So it’s very special to support each other and for me to let the world know we’re doing great things in NASCAR.”
Suárez said he didn’t speak English when he first came to the United States in 2014, but he was quickly embraced by the Latino community in the Charlotte area. It’s one reason meeting with Daniel’s Amigos has become such a rewarding experience for him.
“For many years in the past, NASCAR has been viewed as an American sport. Right now, I believe that has changed,” Suárez said. “When I was making that transition, it wasn’t 100 percent easy, it required a lot of work, and a lot of people thought it wasn’t even possible.”
Suárez’s partnership with Coca-Cola in creating Daniel’s Amigos has played a big role in helping shift that perspective.
“Daniel came to us and told us, ‘I think I can be a support to NASCAR in building fandom among Hispanic fans, I can be that role model, I can be the voice because I think other Latinos would love this if they just had a chance to be a part of it,” said Al Rondon, Coca-Cola senior marketing manager, who took over the Daniel’s Amigos program in 2021.
“So that became the genesis, and it really aligned perfectly with what Coke and NASCAR were challenging each other to do, to bring new fans to the sport.”
With Rondon and Suárez working together, Daniel’s Amigos really took off.
Many events now feature authentic Mexican food and mariachi bands to celebrate Hispanic culture.
“Even the invitations we send out are both in English and Spanish,” Rondon said, noting the group partners with host tracks and other local organizations to do outreach. “We work with the community that they want to engage with, like Boys and Girls Clubs, Hispanic chambers of commerce and in markets where there is a Mexican consulate.”
Coca-Cola hopes to expand the Daniel’s Amigos program, which held an event in the company’s hometown of Atlanta earlier in the year. There are two more Coke-sponsored events this year still to come: on Oct. 8 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course and on Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For Suárez, one dream would be NASCAR racing a Cup event in Mexico in the near future.
“I can see that happening,” Suárez said. “I see two amazing countries very close to the United States with amazing markets, I felt like we should be going there, with Canada being one of them and Mexico being the other.”
It would be a chance for Suárez and his Amigos to finally bring the party back home.
“If you were to tell me we’re going to be (racing in) Canada and Mexico in the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Suárez said. “That would be amazing for me.”