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Jun 11, 2016 5:10 PM

Suarez becomes 1st Mexican to win NASCAR national race

The Associated Press

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) Daniel Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national race, passing Kyle Busch and holding off one of the sport's big stars at the Xfinity Series race at Michigan.

"To be able to be an example to bring more people is great," said Suarez, who moved to the U.S. five years ago.

Busch led 88 of the 125 laps in the Menards 250 race Saturday, but couldn't stay ahead of Suarez for the final two laps.

"I didn't know Suarez was coming like that," Busch said. "He had some speed."

The 24-year-old Suarez is the first non-American to lead any of NASCAR's three national series in points. He became the first Mexican to win the Xfinity Series rookie of the year award last year.

Winning, for the first time, adds quite a feat to his list of accomplishments.

"This is monumental," said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development

Busch, Paul Menard, Erik Jones and Elliott Sadler finished in the top five.

"It couldn't have been scripted better because he had to beat some heavy hitters," Wilson said. "He didn't do it at a stand-alone event."

Jones raced with "Dave," instead of his name painted above the driver side window. His father, Dave Jones, died this week at 53 after a short bout with cancer.

"Erik made a point to be in that race car," Wilson said. "He did it to honor his father."

Gordie Howe was mentioned during the invocation before the race about 70 miles west of Detroit, where he played much of his career for the Red Wings. Howe died Friday at 88.

Suarez won for the first time in 48 starts in NASCAR's national series, getting rewarded for a climb through the sport's development programs. He became a part of NASCAR in 2011 and was involved in its Drive for Diversity and Next programs.

"Without all the support, maybe I wouldn't be here right now," he acknowledged.

Suarez also credited Busch, whom he drives for in the Truck Series.

"Kyle has been super helpful," he said. "He has supported me a lot and given me advice. He's been a good friend."

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