Toyota Racing – Daniel Suárez
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 24, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suárez was made available to the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
You’ve had strong performances here recently, does that give you confidence heading into Sunday’s race?
“Yeah, for sure. You know Charlotte has been a good place for me. I don’t know, it’s just one of those places that for whatever reason you feel comfortable and you get good results and seems like you build from that and actually today so far, obviously just one practice – three runs actually, that’s exactly what my team did and the car felt pretty good. The race track is changing. First time out it was a little greasy and then it actually got better, so I’m looking forward for tonight’s qualifying. I feel like we have a pretty good strong 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry and hopefully we can put the car in the front.”
With your experience in the Coca-Cola 600 last year, how grueling was that race for you and have you adjusted your strategy for it at all?
“Well, the race it was a little bit longer than what I was expecting for sure. It just, it’s just a marathon. You have to organize your stuff, be patient. I remember last Coca-Cola 600, the first quarter of the race I was pretty bad. I didn’t have a lot of speed, but that didn’t mean that in the second half of the race I wasn’t going to be fast. Actually we made a couple of adjustments and obviously the race track changed a lot and by the second half of the race, my car came alive and actually I think it became a top-10 car, at times maybe even a top-five car. We finished 11th for a fuel mileage deal, but I feel that we had a little bit better car than that and overall I feel like it’s a big deal. It’s a big race obviously. I feel like a lot of things play out at the same time, physically, mentally and not just as the driver, but as well for everyone on my team. Looking forward to getting that shot this weekend.”
How is your thumb after the injury you had a few weeks ago? Is it doing better?
“Yeah, I would like to say that it’s almost perfect. If I bent my finger far enough to one side or the other, I can still feel the pain a little bit. Obviously I don’t do that when I’m racing, but it’s much better. I feel like maybe – I don’t know. I have no idea when it’s going to be perfect, but it’s pretty close to perfect. It doesn’t bother me at all – just when I want to push to see how good it is is when it does bother me a little bit, but overall it’s good. I’ve been already for a couple or a few weeks racing without my little cast, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Looking at your car this week versus last week, what’s going to be different in the 600 versus the All-Star event?
“I think the biggest difference is that the one from Saturday was orange and this one is green. That was maybe the biggest thing. Everything else – I think the race is going to be different. It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be as a good as last Saturday. Really a different package, different way to race I guess, but the racing is going to be – as a driver it’s going to be just as fun. Obviously, less downforce, more power, more what we are used to normally, so I’m excited. I’m excited to come back. My team has been making a lot of gains lately on the mile and a half on this package, so looking forward to start the weekend on Thursday with a good practice and obviously continue that into a good qualifying.”
How have you grown as a Cup driver from where you were last year at this time to now?
“I feel okay. I feel like I need to keep working in some areas just to keep improving myself and to get better as a race car driver and to be more consistent. To push the limits maybe sometimes a little bit more, but I feel like we are good. We’re on the right track. I wish we can run more often in the top five to be able to win races, but it’s tough. The Cup Series is not easy at all. I remember last year at this point I was already knocking on the door to several top 10s and I told myself at this point in the race in my career in Cup, we are already in top 10s. We are going to be running top five and maybe knocking on the door to wins here very soon and that’s not the case. It’s just very tough because the competition is always changing and it’s difficult and I feel like we have to keep working on it. That next step from being running a top-10 car to running a top-five and being able to win races is a very difficult one and it’s been taking me a while to make it right. We’ve been there, but not very consistent, so that’s my goal – personal goal and my team obviously as well. I feel like now we are moving in the right direction. Obviously, results like Dover and last weekend really help us to build from that and hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Do you feel like you’ve made enough progress at this track that you can be in the running to get your first win here?
“It could be. I can tell you that if we can put ourselves to running in the top five every weekend, we can win any time. Once you are in the top five around those guys, those crazy restarts, you don’t have to be the best car to win a race. That has happened several times. Obviously, if you have the best car, you must win the race, right? I feel like it can happen any time. We just have to run in the top five. We just have to be solid first practice, qualifying practice, I feel pretty good about it. My team feels pretty good about it too. Charlotte has been a good place to me. I feel good mentally and physically, so why not. Would be great too to have Interstate (Batteries) in victory lane one more time. I’ve been with them in victory lane already once in the past and Norm Miller has been a great supporter for my team and this program and looking forward to having a strong weekend with him.”
Heading to Pocono next week, do you have confidence going to a track that you’ve had so much success on and at a track that has three unique corners, do you focus being really good on one of them or pretty good on all three?
“You try to be as good as possible on all three, but most likely it’s difficult. You have to just try to be very good in I guess one and three and being as good as possible in two. I don’t know, I’ve never won there before. I’m not sure if that’s right or not. We have to – you know I’m one of those drivers that I don’t like to think about in this case Pocono when we are here in Charlotte. I like to put all my effort here and then next week I’m going to be able to think about Pocono, but I feel pretty good about Pocono as well. I haven’t obviously thought about it at all, but I feel like it’s going to be good. I like shifting a lot, so obviously we are going to be shifting some in that place and I really enjoy that.”