Toyota Racing – Daniel Suárez
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Richmond International Raceway – April 28, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suárez was made available to the media at Richmond International Raceway:
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What was it like making your NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at Richmond International Raceway?
“Well, Richmond has been a good place for me. Actually, last week it was very funny because I saw on Facebook that last week three years ago I did my debut here in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, so I thought that was pretty cool. It’s crazy how the time goes very, very fast, and now to be able to be in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is something very cool. And not just that, the racing, as well – the XFINITY Series is still something that is going to be really special, like every single weekend, and a lot of fun this weekend here in Richmond.”
With so many veterans retiring, is there more opportunity for you young guys coming up through the ranks now?
“Well, I really believe there is always opportunity. There is a lot of young drivers out there racing in trucks, in XFINITY, in the K&N where I came from, in late models, even in different countries – in México, in Canada. There is a lot of talent out there and sometimes we don’t even notice until we turn back and see what all these kids with talent are doing. I think it definitely helps, but as well all these drivers that now they are either retiring or they are big names in the sport, they have helped a lot to make what the sport is today. Just very happy to be here. Very happy as well to be one of the drivers of the new generation and try to have a lot of fun. Sometimes, I actually am trying to help some of the new generations, as well, that are coming in my side from México. I have actually two friends that are living in my house and they are racing late models and K&N and they are trying to make their way through, and it’s always good when someone can give you a hand. I think it’s a lot of talent out there, and eventually they are going to make their way through.”
Can you just break down what you think your strengths and weaknesses have been so far since being in the Cup car?
“Well, it’s been a lot going on for sure. Very different than the XFINITY Series, but above it all it’s just very easy to be off. Seems like when you are off in the Cup car, you are 25th, and when you are off in the XFINITY car, you can still run 10th or 15th. It’s quite a bit different. I felt like we were going in a good direction maybe a month and a half ago and then we had some changes that were out of our hands and I feel like we had to start again on these processes in the Cup car. Scott (Graves, crew chief), he’s a very smart crew chief, he knows a lot and he has won two championships in a row in the XFINITY Series, but in the Cup car it’s different and he knows that and I’m learning that. I believe now we are learning together instead of I’m just learning myself, but that’s part of it. I like the challenge and I feel like this year is going to be a good challenge for me.”
What’s the biggest thing you learned in your XFINITY debut and the biggest thing you’ve learned since?
“For me it’s crazy that it’s been only three years. I feel like it’s been more than that. Just a lot of races, a lot of race tracks and it’s been a lot going on in three years for myself. I feel like I’m a different person and a different driver as well. Just learning about the team. That race – I remember that race like it was yesterday. That race was more like a test for myself that Joe Gibbs Racing gave me and when the result wasn’t good because we had a flat tire – we run pretty competitive and we run in the top 10 all night long and it was a lot of fun. Because of that race, we got the opportunity to do more and then eventually do a full season in 2015. You know, it’s just very cool, and I never – normally I don’t think about these kind of things, about debuts and stuff, but like I said, I saw it last week, and I thought it was pretty interesting.”
Have you settled in as far as your new Cup ride and with the team? It seems like you’re just going at your own pace.
“I think that’s right. Pressure is normal. I guess if you can’t handle pressure, you’re in the wrong sport, but that’s normal. We’re going to have pressure all the time and not just from the team actually. From the team, I haven’t had pressure at all. But from myself to myself, that’s not the way I am – I like to be competitive and I like to run okay. I like to run in the front and I like to win races and I feel like we are getting better, but there is still a long ways to go. We are making gains and we are learning a lot of things and I just feel that we need more speed as an organization. You know, my team, I feel like we are learning some things, but definitely the speed that we need is not there yet. I feel like we are making gains, but hopefully we can keep getting better and get whatever we got left on the table in the first seven, eight races, get that back in the next three or four races.”
What do you and the other young drivers have to do to promote yourselves with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other veteran drivers retiring in recent years?
“I think it’s very simple – it’s just being yourself. I think every single driver out there in the garage has different personalities. Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) has his personality; Kyle has his personality; Jimmie Johnson has his personality; I have my personality; and everyone is different. When every single driver can go out there to be himself, I think that’s very cool, and the fans like that. You know, so far it’s what I’ve been doing and I think it’s the right thing to do. But like I said, overall, Dale has been more than a role model for the sport and it’s great what he has done. Like I said on Twitter last week, I’m kind of new into the sport, but I have learned a lot from him in and out of the racetrack. A great guy, a great driver, and I’m looking forward to keep racing with him this year and to keep hanging out with him, as well, in the future.”
You’re in a unique situation because you not only represent Daniel Suárez, you represent México to a large degree, and in other ways you’ve had a situation where your father worked on cars like his father worked on cars. You come from a blue‑collar working background. Do you understand that as part of perhaps the heritage of people and the cars and how that all plays into attracting the average race fan?
“Yeah. I mean, every single driver out there, just like personalities, they have different backgrounds as well. My family, they didn’t come from racing at all, just cars, and slowly I started making my way into the race cars thing. And fans love that. Fans like to know what is behind the driver, what is behind the driver, behind the racetrack, not just in the racetrack. I think it’s very cool. I really feel very lucky to be in this position, to be here in NASCAR. It’s been an amazing journey so far in the last six years here living in the United States, and I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to the future as well.”
What do you hear from your three teammates about what Joe Gibbs Racing needs right now?
“Honestly, it’s the same thing. We just – I mean, if you think about it, by this point last year, I think we had already a few wins and right now we have zero. Definitely there is some speed missing as an organization, but maybe we have one more step left as a team. I feel like as a team, we are even one more step back than the rest of the guys, and that’s normal. I’m new. My crew chief (Scott Graves) is new. And pretty much if you change these two things, it’s a brand new racing. Everything else changed. The system changed. And I feel like we are going to get there. If you think about it, last year in the XFINITY Series, we won the championship, and we didn’t start very strong. We won our first race until almost the second half of the season or in the middle of the season. I think we are going to get there. Like I said, Scott is a very smart crew chief. I don’t think I’m super smart, but I’m decent, so hopefully we can keep moving in the right direction and like I say, in the last couple weeks I feel like we’ve been a little bit better. Hopefully we can keep making those gains.”
Now with Carl Edwards retired, are you keeping the No. 19 Camry team healthy?
“You know, my truck driver in the XFINITY stuff, he called me Danny, Daniel, but a lot of times he called me ‘Salmon Guy,’ because I was asking him to make me salmon every single day. I’m a very healthy person and slowly I made that direction in the XFINITY stuff in the last couple years because I had exactly the same thing. And now in the Cup stuff, we are going in the same direction. Carl Edwards was the same way and now slowly we are staying there. Sometimes truck drivers, they don’t care about that and some of the mechanics, they don’t care about that and they start going to a different direction, but you have to straighten them up and put them back in the lane.”