Change of Scene May Be Just What Suarez Needs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 9 2019
Daniel Suarez has new life in the NASCAR Cup Series. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

No one need ever question Daniel Suarez’s adaptability.

In 10 years, the Monterrey, Mexico native has competed in ARCA and NASCAR’s Mexico, K&N, truck, Xfinity and Cup series. He won the 2016 Xfinity Series championship and the following year moved into Cup fulltime when Carl Edwards abruptly retired. Now, after just two years in the Cup Series with Joe Gibbs Racing, Suarez is transitioning from JGR and Toyota to Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford.

It’s a move reminiscent of the situation that occurred with Joey Logano, who, like Suarez, was thrust into Cup too soon; a victim of circumstances.

In Logano’s case, JGR moved him into Cup fulltime after not even a full season of Xfinity racing when Tony Stewart vacated the No. 20 to go become a team co-owner with Gene Haas. In four full Cup seasons at JGR, Logano totaled five poles, two victories, 16-top five and 41top-10 finishes. Yet, when 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth became available, Logano was without a ride. Roger Penske hired him at Brad Keselowski’s encouragement. The maturity came and last year a Cup championship.

Suarez knew before last season ended that his 2016 Xfinity Series championship, and one pole, four top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in two years in the Cup Series wasn’t good enough for him to keep his ride at JGR. Not when 2017 Cup champion and fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. was available.

When the checkered flag fell on the 2018 season, Suarez was a racing orphan. That changed on Monday when Stewart-Haas officially announced Suarez was Kurt Busch’s replacement in the No. 41 Ford with sponsors Haas Automation and Arris. And if the numbers are any indication of what the future holds for Suarez, he could find himself following Logano’s maturity/championship path. The announcement came on Suarez’s 27th birthday, 41 days before the season opening Daytona 500.

Suarez knows the road may be rocky for a while, adjusting to a new team and the new Ford Mustang. He’s not yet been in the car or on the simulator at Ford’s technology center in Concord, N.C., but he expects to remedy that situation this week.

“It’s gonna be a little challenge to adapt to everything, but I feel like it’s gonna be something that’s good for me.  It’s some new fresh air for myself,” Suarez said.

Suarez is used to challenges. When he moved to Mooresville, N.C., in 2011, his business manager told him he needed to learn English and about the race cars, and be fast and competitive as soon as possible. Suarez learned English via Rosetta Stone, a program people use on their computers to learn new languages. His co-workers at the race shop also assisted him with his English. Suarez now speaks fluent English, but admitted it’s “been a process to get into this great organization (SHR).”

“It’s been different from the way I’ve been working in comparison to where I came from and just to try to adapt as much as possible to the way that (crew chief) Billy Scott and the engineers work,” Suarez said. “I’m still learning many different things.

“I guess now that the news is official, it’s gonna be way easier to work and I won’t have to be hiding every time I go to the shop. I’m happy that this day finally came.”

And the same could be said of Suarez’s SHR teammates. Aric Almirola and Suarez ride bicycles together and have become “good friends.” Suarez has known Kevin Harvick since his full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series. And Clint Bowyer, well, Suarez doesn’t believe “there’s a person in the garage area that doesn’t talk to Clint. He’s a very funny guy.”

“I feel like as a group we’re gonna be able to do great things together,” Suarez said.

He could be right.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 9 2019
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