Daniel Suarez is motivated. He’s eager to show the racing world that we can’t overlook him as a relevant driver in NASCAR. While his career started off quick in the sport, it also worked against him. Following an Xfinity Series title in 2016, he was a last minute addition to the Joe Gibbs Racing camp in the Cup Series for 2017. He had a little over a month from signing a deal from his promotion to joining the premiere series in NASCAR.
Suarez, had no past Cup experience at that point either, so as you can imagine, it was a steep learning curve. Unfortunately, Suarez was a victim of his own past success. He did really well with Toyota/JGR coming through the ranks, but his momentum stalled out in Cup. See, he needed a little while to gel, but was never given the time to do so.
With Erik Jones and others having similar success to Suarez in those same lower ranks, they were ready to come up and needing places to go. Suarez was squeezed out after just two seasons because of that.
He then moved to Stewart-Haas Racing on a one-year deal for 2019. That too wasn’t long enough to get him acclimated to driving for a new team, with new people and a new manufacturer. He wasn’t retained and went to a small team with the Gaunt Brothers last year.
Now, he’s got himself in a ride that could be seen as a perfect fit. Sometimes when one door closes, a better one opens. Maybe it took the previous three doors to land him in the perfect room.
Suarez, 29, is with Trackhouse Racing Team. They’re one of NASCAR’s newest organizations. While that could be seen as a detriment for Suarez, it’s actually quite the opposite. This team values Suarez. This team is giving him the resources that he needs to compete as well as the time to get to the front. This isn’t a one year venture to find someone else. This is Suarez’ ride for the future and they’re putting the pieces together to get him to being a contender.
That has Suarez seeing the potential for this operation. He says the pit crew is one of the best that he’s had in Cup and even though they make some mistakes, they’re all new to this together and have the time to figure it out. The pressure to succeed immediately isn’t there from up top.
“I’m the kind of person that always tries to focus on the things that are bad, instead of the things that are good,” Suarez said. “I see that things are good, and I say, ‘Okay, that’s good. Now let’s work on the things that are not so good.’ I’ve been working very hard … to try to be better in communication with the spotter and the whole group, because it’s a brand new group.
“I feel the potential is there. But there are a lot of little things that we’re going to have to clean up to be able to be consistently in the Top 15, top 10, and eventually, hopefully, be knocking on the door to race for wins.”
In terms of his cars, he says that the speed right now is better in some areas than he thought but also off in some areas that he thought they’d be better at too.
“Daytona was better than I thought we were going to have,” Suarez told me. “Miami was a little bit better than I thought we were going to have. In Vegas, it was a little bit worse than I thought we were going to have.”
Suarez cites all of this to the new team again. Part of the reason as to why the newness isn’t sped up yet is due to the lack of track time on race weekends. See, we’re still just showing up and racing again. There’s no practice. There’s no time to have a weekend to get your car dialed in. It’s race what you brought. For a new team with no past notes, if the sims are off just a little bit, it sends them down a wrong path which could ruin a race.
“Listen, we’re still a new team,” he continued. “We have a lot of new people. We still dabbling in a lot of different areas on how to understand what we need, how to communicate how hard we should push the splitter.
“At this point of the season, I wish we were having at least a couple of practices. That would be the goal for our team right now because right now, the whole thing is brand new. We get to practice on the simulator, put our setup on the real car and go to a race track and hope for the best. If for some reason the simulator was off, we’re going to be off the rest of the day in the race and that’s exactly what happened in Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas I’m sure if we could make some adjustments to the car, we were going to be competitive similar like we were in Miami. But we didn’t have the chance to do that. We couldn’t change shocks or heights or stuff like that. It was one of those things that we’re just still learning. We’re building a notebook and learning from each other. I feel like my team has a lot of potential but we’re in the learning process at this point.”
Suarez, heads to Phoenix this week where he had a top 10 finish in each of his first two years in Cup during this race. I suspect his No. 99 Chevrolet can be a top 20 contender this weekend as another solid outing can help this teams potential even further down the road.