Suarez leads a practice session…again

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - JUNE 07: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Demo Day Ford, gets into his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 07, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

For the fourth time in three weeks, Daniel Suarez had the fastest car in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session.

In Friday’s opening practice for Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Suarez topped the speed chart at 188.882 mph.

Though he previously led two practices at Charlotte and one at Pocono, those efforts didn’t translate in results on Sunday afternoon. Suarez finished 18th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in late May and eighth in last Sunday’s Pocono 400.

“Our cars have been very fast,” Suarez said after Friday’s first practice session. “The problem that we have had in the last month is that we haven’t been able to race that way. We have fast cars—there is no doubt. We just have to be able to transfer that into the race and that means having a good car for traffic and having a good car in the draft and all those different situations.

“I feel like everyone has been working hard and making gains. It is always fun to be the fastest in practice, but we know that isn’t the most important part. It shows we have speed, but now we need to transfer that into the race. Hopefully, we can do that this weekend.”

Suarez also explained his current contract situation with Stewart-Haas Racing, indicating that both he and the team have renewal options after the 2019 season. Suarez came to SHR this year after two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he lost his ride to make room for Martin Truex Jr.

“I feel very confident in where we are,” said Suarez, who was fourth fastest in Happy Hour and quickest in 10 consecutive lap average. “We have options on both sides, which is good. I have an option, they have an option, and I feel that is the best way to do things, especially when you have a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the year. We know where we are at and what we can do. We haven’t won races—that was my goal, but nobody has on the team.

“It isn’t like I am the only one not winning races like it was the last (two) years. It’s a way different situation. I feel like, when we move forward, we move forward together. I don’t feel like I am the guy that is struggling of the group. I feel like we are going to be in good shape. I feel like I am in a good home with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance and everyone in this group. I’m not really worried. I feel confident about it.

“But I will tell you that I felt confident about it as well last year and you saw what happened. You never know in this sport. I don’t like talking about it until it is 110-percent secure. The sport is at a point where anything can happen. What I can control is this weekend. I have to do my thing this weekend and try to win races. I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”

Greg Engle