For Daniel Suarez, Sunday’s third-place finish was particularly satisfying, not simply because it was a career-best effort on an oval track in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, but, in a broader sense, because it’s emblematic of the progress he and his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team are making.
After rain delayed the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, Suarez restarted fifth with 75 laps left, grabbed third place in short order and held it the rest of the way, despite a determined charge from reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. behind him.
“Just overall, just very proud of my team,” said Suarez, whose only other third-place finish—and only other career top five—came last year on the Watkins Glen International road course. “I would like to say that the entire year we have had good speed pretty much everywhere we go, top 10s, top 5s sometimes.
“We just haven’t been able to get the deal done, and especially in the first month and a half of the season, just struggling a lot. I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results. The (current) month and a half, couple months, has been more relaxed.”
Does that mean a victory may be in the offing?
“I feel like if we keep running the way that we’re running today, top 5, top 10—pretty much all day long we were running in the top 10—I think it can happen any time. We just have to somehow beat the 4 car (race winner Kevin Harvick).
“The 4 car today was in a different league. Normally if you can run in the top 5, you can have a shot any time. Those crazy restarts and stuff. Like I said, overall very proud of my team. I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We just have to keep it up.”