Daniel Suarez is flourishing. He’s ready for his next NASCAR step

Purely from a racing point of view, Daniel Suárez may not know how to feel bopping around Nashville last week.

For a driver who was knocked out of the knockout stages after the quarterfinals and placed 10th on the leaderboard, it was certainly a successful year. But Suarez saw his teammate, Ross Chastain, reach the championship round and finish second overall.

So he knows there are tools for him to grow and while he has had the best season of his career, he may wonder if he can achieve much more. .

“Ross has done very well this year,” Suarez said. “They’ve put the bar in an advantageous position. Ross and his team, on a consistent basis, they’re very strong. We’re probably 70%. [of the time] with them.

“When we were strong, we were as good as them. But once in five we lose it. We’ll have to keep working.”

Simply comparing him to Chastain would be a bit short-sighted considering Suarez’s position. Looking back on the past seasons he endured, the sport’s only Mexican-born driver must feel satisfied with his place in NASCAR.

“It’s motivating, and I feel like I have a lot to celebrate,” Suarez said of Chastain’s finish. “We’ve done very well as a team – a lot of good days, a lot of bad days that we have to learn from.

Stenhouse, Buescher, Suarez advance to All-Star with Open win

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez advanced to the All-Star with an Open win while Erik Jones won the Fan Vote.

“We’re going to try to grow and get better. In the first year, I can say that 80% of the people on my team are new to working together.”

That experience is nothing new for Suarez. In September 2018 he found out that he would not be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing for the third season and it was not until January 2019 that Suarez was named the driver of Stewart’s No. 41 trophy car. -Haas Racing.

Then, in November 2019, SHR told him he wouldn’t be returning in 2020. Suarez scrambled for a ride, hooking up with Gaunt Brothers Racing, a part-time team with help from Toyota. , opted to go all year with Suárez. The team missed the Daytona 500 and struggled as Suarez finished 31st in the standings.

Suarez has found new life at Trackhouse Racing and is having a pretty good year in 2021 when the organization is founded at Richard Childress Racing. Justin Marks, co-owner of Trackhouse, has acquired Chip Ganassi Racing and expanded into two cars for 2022, putting Suarez on an optimistic but still crucial transition a year before he starts. a year where he’s had four top 10 hits, but it’s still average. outside the top 20.

Last season finally saw Suarez return to his form and then some. He has made his career best of 6 people in the top 5 (he has 4 in 2020) and 13 in the top 10 (he has 12 as a rookie in 2017). The best moment came in June in Sonoma with the first National Cup of his career. He became the first Mexican driver to win a Cup race, drawing on a history that includes the 2016 Xfinity Series title making him the first Mexican driver to win the national series championship. join NASCAR.

“I don’t pinch myself to win [compared to] where I was two years ago,” Suarez said. “I can say that 99 percent of people have lost faith in me. … It’s good to come back and affirm that I can still be a winner and succeed at the National Cup level.

“It feels great. I’m very, very happy about it. There’s been a lot of positives from this year. And I feel like next year can only get better.”

Now, Suarez can look forward to 2023 and know that for the most part, things will stay the same. So that’s why he moves around Nashville with optimism and maybe a smile on his face more than some of the other drivers at the NASCAR awards who are still disappointed they didn’t get the season. solve as desired.

“I’ve been in the Cup Series for six years, but most of those years were transitions or something that happened – it wasn’t consistent for me,” Suarez said.

“I haven’t been able to grow with my team. This is my first chance that I can make my team even better next year.”

It is also the first opportunity in a long time that Suarez can speak to people during the season with a resume that shows his optimism is not based on hope. He knows race fans who wonder if he can get the job done on the track.

“I would call it credibility,” Suarez said. “That’s important. Even though I was pretty successful in the Xfinity Series, you’re still as good as your last race.

“And if you don’t do well this year, it’s okay if you did well last year. People will forget that. It’s important to reinforce that and continue to raise the bar.”

While enjoying his 2022 season, Suarez is happy to see it come to an end. He hasn’t had a single year to reach the knockouts, and he’s made it past the first round – meaning he has an extra six weeks of pressure on the track that he didn’t in previous years.

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Plus, he’ll be willing to admit that when a driver comes to the track thinking there’s a better chance of winning, there’s a price to pay.

“It’s the first time I’ve had the chance to fight in a whole year,” Suarez said. “We had some races that we missed a lot. … It was a consistent fight. So to be honest, by the time we got to Phoenix, I was exhausted.

“I really need to take a break and clear my mind.”

Suarez also has something to look forward to – his season started off as strong as possible with a trip abroad, which included him proposing to girlfriend Julia Piquet.

“I’ve been carrying the ring for a few months, so I’m ready,” he said with a laugh. “I had a plan in my head. …I had a plan in my head for how things were going to go, and it was getting close to that plan.”

And his plans for next season? He said the belief that how strong his team can be, based on his and Chastain’s performances, will change the outlook from the start.

“This year we have exceeded the expectations of many on our team,” Suarez said. “Now a lot of people on our team believe we belong in this standard. So I believe — it won’t be easy — but I think we’ll be able to raise the bar to a higher level.

“I want to win a few races and win a fourth championship. And I think that’s realistic. … We have the potential to do great things.”

Think big

When Christian Eckes was announced as a truck driver for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing next year, it was a bit of a surprise as he looks set to return to ThorSport Racing next season.

But it looks like ThorSport is ready to switch to Ford and put Hailie Deegan in one of its trucks. The team hasn’t announced plans yet, suggesting they are still finalizing their 2023 lineup and manufacturers.

Many wondered if Deegan, who had just completed his second year as a truck driver, was still a viable prospect. Her average, when driving for David Gilliland Racing, has increased from 20.9 in the 2021 rookie season to 22.1 this year. Not good.

But she finished 13th in her Xfinity debut in Las Vegas, showing that there could still be potential people see in her from 2018-2020 as she won three ARCA West races and also finished second. third in the ARCA country rankings. The lack of any substantial exercise on many tracks also makes one wonder if just with more running time she could have excelled.

If she ends up in ThorSport, no one will question it. The team has won races and championships in recent years. Whether or not she has a breakout year in 2023 will be one of the series’ biggest storylines.

reader mail bag

Have a question? Reply to this Twitter post with your question:

Here are this week’s questions and answers:

Can you see Zane Smith with SHR or FRM in 2024 if he stays with Ford?

Front Row Motorsports has Zane Smith under contract and if I guess, he will drive a Cup car for that team in 2024. Now, that doesn’t mean he definitely will, but FRM seems to be on the way. Prepare him for that role. And it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Smith to keep growing and not be under as much pressure as he was when he went to one of the larger Ford teams for a rookie season in the Cup. That being said, the money speaks for itself, and if there’s a sponsor that wants Smith, I can meet him at any Ford team (Stewart-Haas, Wood Brothers, Penske, Roush Fenway Keselowski) . I believe Ford will do everything possible to keep him in Ford’s camp.

any word above by Jeffrey Earnhardt plans for next year?

There are still some part-time and full-time rides open at Xfinity groups, and I believe that’s where Earnhardt is focused. He hasn’t made any announcements and these tend to be fluid. While he drives for Sam Hunt Racing and Emerling-Gase Motorsports in 2022, other teams, such as Alpha Prime Racing, are not ruled out as potential landing spots for Earnhardt.

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They Said It

“I don’t regret the mistakes I made because it made me who I am. … It’s really not about winning or losing. It’s about winning and growing.”

—Joey Logano

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Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsport, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News- Journal. Follow him on Twitter @reedsand sign up FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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