Toyota Racing – Daniel Suárez
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kansas Speedway – May 12, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suárez was made available to the media at Kansas Speedway:
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 Stanley ACE / Children’s Miracle Network Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
You visited the University of Kansas Hospital yesterday in support of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, what was that experience like for you?
“You know, for me it’s very special to be a small part of projects like this. Very happy to have Stanley Black & Decker part of our team doing these kind of things. Yesterday, as you mentioned, I had the opportunity to spend half a day in the hospital with some of the kids that went through that process already, and some of the kids that are in the middle of the process. Actually four kids that they went through all this already that are going to be here with us tomorrow, with us meaning driver intros, the race. They are super excited. A couple of them they know a lot about NASCAR and they are super race fans. Super excited to be a small part of this. Obviously, the rest of the kids that are in the hospital, they won’t be able to be here, but they told me they were going to be watching on TV. I was able to bring them a little gift, a couple hats and stuff from Stanley Black & Decker, and it’s very cool for me to interact with kids like this. It’s something very cool because they will become race fans forever, and that’s something very special for me. Super excited about this weekend. There’s a lot on the line. Actually yesterday, doesn’t matter what happened in the race, but yesterday Stanley Black & Decker donated already $100,000 to the hospital, so it’s a big deal this weekend for myself, for Stanley Black & Decker and for the hospital, and hopefully we can have a little bit of luck and make this dream happen for a lot of kids.”
What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series?
“Good question. Maybe the most important lesson is that you need to stay in the top of the game. It’s so difficult to stay in the top of the game the entire race. The race is already longer and there’s more stuff going on. I’ve been in this situation already a few times where in the beginning of the race we are pretty bad, and then we work, we work and we work, and then by the end of the race, we got either a top 10 or very close to a top 10. And that’s a good example of staying in the top of the game with your team. I feel like I still have a long ways to go in my learning career. My team already has a lot of experience, but Scott (Graves, crew chief) is still learning a few things, as well. And I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We just have to keep working to try to find more speed, and we know what our weak points are right now, and hopefully we can work hard on those and to get better.”
How much pressure do you feel stepping in for Carl Edwards, and do you feel any more coming to Kansas Speedway, which was his home track and had been such an important track for him through the years?
“No. I mean, for me, I’ve been racing with pressure my entire life, so this is just one more. Carl (Edwards) did an amazing job. He’s a great driver. He won a lot of races. Very successful driver. But right now, a lot of things have changed for this year. You know, we still have obviously a lot of that team, but not everything is the same. We are working hard to try to put everything that I need working for myself and trying to find speed, and I know that we are going to get there. It’s just a process. I really feel like we were on this process a couple years ago in the XFINITY Series, and it takes time and it takes patience. We have to be smart and try to make this process as fast as possible.”
Have you ever raced for a million dollars before and what’s that feel like?
“No. It feels very good. You know, it’s everything about these kids. It’s a really big deal for them. We are very fortunate, all of us, to be here and to be able to not think about those things. But when you get the opportunity to spend some time with them, you understand how fortunate we are and how important it is for us to give a little bit back. Like I said, super proud to be part of Stanley Black & Decker team, and proud to be a small part of this project that can make this dream possible for a lot of kids at this hospital.”
Do people ever come up to your car expecting to see Carl Edwards, thinking he’s still in the No. 19 Toyota?
“It hasn’t happened to me. I guess it was a pretty big deal when he stepped out. A lot of people know that he’s not racing anymore. I haven’t had that situation. I’m still talking to Carl actually, not super often, every day, but very often. He still calls me once in a while. To answer the question, no.”
When you come to a track for the first time in the Cup Series, how helpful is it to already have experience under your belt at that track in the XFINITY Series or another series?
“It is helpful, but I have learned in the past that looking through my notes from XFINITY stuff doesn’t really work for Cup. So what I’ve been trying to do is trying to work in the notes from my teammates, because pretty much all the information I have is from a different race car, different power, different aero, different downforce, different everything. It kind of is not a reference anymore. And the information they have is already way, way closer. I have learned that so far in this year, and actually right now I haven’t even looked at my notes from the XFINITY stuff, but it definitely helps to have some races here in the XFINITY stuff and actually in the trucks once, I think, as well, and at least it’s a good knowledge about the racetrack, not about the car but about the racetrack.”
With Dale Jr.’s recent retirement announcement and other veteran drivers having just retired, is there any pressure on the young drivers to perform better and step up their game on and off the race track?
“Yeah, it’s a big deal. I grew up in the last six years, and I moved to the United States watching Carl Edwards, watching all these guys that you just mentioned, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and now that they are stepping away for different reasons, it’s kind of sometimes hard to figure out, but eventually that is going to happen for every single driver out there. It’s just a process. Really no one wants this to happen, but it will happen one day, and you know, it’s just a process. Honestly, I don’t really think about it. I just try to do my ‑‑ I just try to do the best I can, the things that I can control, and I can control having a good performance in the racetrack and doing my part the best I can, and the rest I will have to just go with it. You know, they’ve been racing for a long time. They have won a lot of races, championships, and they’ve been, like you just mentioned, the face of the sport for a long time. The only thing I can say is that it’s really an honor to race with these guys for some races or hopefully some years, and to learn from these guys, because these guys, they’ve been racing for a long time so they have a lot of experience in the sport. It’s just a process, and for myself, I just try to focus on what I can control.”
Talk about your mom and any plans that you have for Mother’s Day this weekend.
“Well, actually Mother’s Day in México was a couple days ago, so yeah, my mom ‑‑ I really didn’t have the opportunity to be down there in México, but two of my sisters, I told them to take my mom to have dinner and to enjoy her day, and they did, so I was very happy for that. And for this weekend, the same thing. Unfortunately ‑‑ well, fortunately I’m going to be in my house, but unfortunately not with my mom. It’s hard work sometimes. Hopefully I can change that sometime soon. But overall, we talk every day and everything, so she’s super excited, and now watching the races every single weekend in front of the TV, in front of the iPad listening to myself, she can understand half of what I’m saying, but she’s listening, and it’s kind of fun how much support she has given me to be where I’m at right now.”
What would it mean for you if you were able to get into the All-Star race next week and get in on your first try?
“Yeah, it’s going to be interesting. Charlotte (Motor Speedway) has been a pretty good place for myself in the past in the XFINITY stuff, so hopefully we can be just as good now in the Cup stuff and put ourselves in a good position to make it to the big show. But to be very honest with you, I haven’t even think about it. Right now I’m in Kansas, I’m thinking about Kansas, and on Sunday, Mother’s Day, I want to start thinking about how I’m going to make my way in.”