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Rookie Suarez Serves Notice In Bristol Xfinity Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 18 2015
Daniel Suarez had his best Infinity Series run on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Daniel Suarez had his best Infinity Series run on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Xfinity Series rookie Daniel Suarez knew he faced a steep learning curve when the 2015 season began, so when he finished second in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway he left many in disbelief, including himself.

Xfinity Series“I can’t explain to you in words right now what I’m feeling in Spanish or English,” Suarez said after exiting his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “This is unbelievable, this feeling.”

Suarez trailed winner Joey Logano by 1.172 seconds at the race’s conclusion, but in the event’s later stages it appeared the Monterrey, Mexico native might have a shot at the victory. At one point in the closing laps, Suarez cut Logano’s lead to less than a second. However, when the two front-runners caught lapped traffic Logano, who led every circuit in the 300-lap event, stretched his advantage to more than a second and was never challenged.

“Really, he had a lot of experience and he was able to pass traffic a little faster and with more confidence than me and in that point he made a good gap between us,” said Suarez, who recorded the best series finish by a Mexican-born driver.

“At one point in that 40-lap run I was thinking, ‘Man, maybe I can take it.’ I just started thinking about the big picture and it looked like at one point of that run that maybe for 20 laps or after 10 laps, we were a little bit faster than him (Logano). Later in the run we started getting a little too tight in the center so we killed a little of the momentum of the corner and it looked like he kept the same speed.”

The 23-year-old Suarez’s first runner-up finish came in only his ninth Xfinity Series start. He made his series debut with a 19th-place finish last spring at Richmond, Va., in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He followed with a 15th-place finish at Chicago in a Toyota fielded by Robby Benton. A short time later JGR named Suarez as its full-time Xfinity Series driver. In this season’s first seven races, Suarez has produced only one finish outside the top 20. That came in the season opener at Daytona when he placed 39th after getting involved in a 12-car accident. Since then his worst finish has been 18th at Texas. Prior to Bristol, his best performance had been a 10th-place finish at Las Vegas.

“Kyle Busch has been helping me a lot the last few races with advice and a lot of details about the race track,” Suarez said. “I believe that has been helping me a lot in the last few races to improve and to know a little more about the race track because most of the race tracks that we have been to in 2015, I’ve never been before. We were still a little bit off (today), but as a rookie I try hard and I believe we’re on the right track.”

Suarez began racing at age 11 after becoming interested in the sport via a friend who invited him to a go-kart event in which he was competing. At age 17, he was given an opportunity that meant he had to make a major decision – travel to Europe and race open-wheel or come to the United States and compete in NASCAR. Suarez’s business manager Jim Morales advised him to pursue a NASCAR career. Two years later Suarez moved to Mooresville, N.C.

At the time, the personable Suarez didn’t speak English. He acquired Rosetta Stone, the program people use on their computers to learn new languages, for his English lessons. His co-workers at the race shop also assisted him with his English. It was a very challenging time for Suarez who had to learn the sport, a new language and how to translate information to his crew in a timely fashion during an event. Three years have now passed and Suarez said he feels “very comfortable (with the communications during a race), almost like Spanish.”

“That’s a very cool thing that my mind is slowly thinking now in English instead of thinking in Spanish and then translating everything to English,” Suarez said. “That takes time. On the race track, we don’t have that time.”

For Suarez, his Bristol performance marked the second time this year he has competed in an Xfinity Series event at a track where he has raced previously in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series. That in itself is a confidence booster.

“The K&N car is definitely different, but sometimes when you know the race track a little bit then you have a little more confidence and at least you know where the bumps is and what is the line to run,” said Suarez, who competed in three K&N Pro Series West races at Phoenix. “It’s just more confidence to know what to expect out of the race track.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 18 2015
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