FONTANA, Calif — The start to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season couldn’t have started much worse for Daniel Suarez. The Mexican driver joined his third different team in as many years, but this one is vastly different to the last two. The previous two organizations that he’s driven for were juggernauts in the sport.
He spent 2018 with Joe Gibbs Racing. In 2019, he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. Now, he shifts back to Toyota to drive a full season for Gaunt Brothers, the first full season campaign for the organization too. Unfortunately, it’s been as frustrating start as he could have ever dreamt of.
Without one of the 36 Charters, Suarez has to qualify his way into the field. In Daytona, he was running well in contention to race his way into the Great American Race, but was caught up in a crash in his twin-150 mile qualifying race when a miscommunication between Ryan Blaney and his crew saw Suarez run over Blaney’s No. 12 Ford when Blaney at last second tried to duck down pit road.
That ended Suarez’ Speedweeks prematurely with a wrecked No. 96 Toyota.
Luckily for them, the next race last weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway saw 38 cars going for 40 spots. It meant that Suarez was going to race no matter what. Then, at the start of last Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, Suarez’ car had a mechanical issue on the drop of the green flag. He didn’t even make it one lap before a problem.
The team was able to get his car repaired and that is why Suarez was pleased with how the Vegas weekend actually went.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but I left Las Vegas very happy,” Suarez said on Friday afternoon following final practice at the Auto Club Speedway, the site of this weekend’s race. “The way team progressed and the way everything went down after that problem, I was actually very pleased with how everything worked out.”
Suarez, would actually run fairly good lap times the rest of the way and said that if the early race mishap didn’t happen, he has no doubt he had a top 20 car that afternoon. The biggest issue in the aftermath of the early race troubles was the lack of track position for the rest of the way. He’d finish 30th as a result.
Now, they head to Fontana, knowing that they have an uphill climb this weekend. Suarez, says that the inexperienced team, the racing package and aged surface combine to be problems for them this weekend.
“Unfortunately, we just don’t have that,” Suarez continued. “I feel like this is one of those places where I will have to work extra hard to make up for everything the car is not giving me.”
“We just have to be patient, keep building and keep growing.”