Photo credit: Savage Ventures

Daniel Suarez: Cup winner, Xfinity champion, U.S. citizen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "I want you to always remember that if you can dream it, you can feel it. Don't let anyone tell you that if you were not born in this country, you cannot achieve any dream you wish."

These were the words delivered by NASCAR President Steve Phelps Tuesday afternoon to the 48 newest citizens of the United States of America. Sitting in the front row as part of this group was Daniel Suarez.

On this day, Suarez didn't view himself as an Xfinity Series champion or as a two-time Cup Series winner. He just saw himself as someone from one of the 28 countries represented in the room, someone who pursued the American dream.

"Something that still to me is extremely special is how little I am in this world," Suarez told media members after his ceremony. "That's, for me, the main thing I was today. I was one of 48 people that came today to become a citizen. Twenty-eight different countries, that's pretty remarkable."

Suarez was on the path to this ceremony for 12 years, a journey that began as he sought to learn English and pursue a racing career. But the process truly began in earnest about five years ago when he realized that he wanted to become a citizen of the United States.

Suarez had to go through the process of obtaining different Visas. He had a Visitor Visa, a Work Visa, and a Green Card.

He had to work with attorneys. He had to study 100 questions so that he could prepare for his citizenship test. Suarez even had to learn about the Louisiana Purchase, something that schools in Mexico did not include in history lessons.

This process was by no means simple, nor was it easy, but Suarez did not complain. He chose to embrace it.

"I'm just glad to be in this position. I'm glad to have such amazing people around me," he said.

Suarez had numerous supporters present for the ceremony in Charlotte. This list included his fiancée, Julia, and Trackhouse Racing President Ty Norris. Several other Trackhouse Racing employees and representatives from the industry showed up to cheer and clap.

Phelps, in particular, was a surprise guest. He served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony -- something that he said made him nervous -- and he handed out the Certificate of Citizenship to all 48 citizens.

"I was not expecting him to be here," Suarez said about Phelps. "He's a great friend. I have nothing but respect for Steve.

"For him to be here, along with a lot of more people from NASCAR, from the media -- I mean people that I get to see every single weekend at the racetrack -- to see them here supporting myself and making this day even more special, it means the world to me."

The ceremony in Charlotte, the Certificate of Citizenship, and the decorative American flag on a stick were memorable elements of a special day for Suarez.

That doesn't mean that he is going to completely change into a different person. He joked that he would still have his accent and he would still speak in broken English while trying to be a positive example for people from other countries.

What will be different will be the pre-race ceremony each week of the NASCAR season.

Suarez has stood at attention during the national anthem thousands of times before, but now he will do so as a U.S. citizen, a dual citizen, and a newly registered voter.

There's something powerful about that fact.

"It does feel a little bit different," Suarez said about the national anthem. "It's almost like okay, now I know that's part of myself.

"Honestly, nothing has changed in the last two hours besides the paper and the music and the little flag, but there is something about it that just makes you feel different."