Toyota Racing – Daniel Suárez
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Watkins Glen International – August 4, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suárez was made available to the media at Watkins Glen International:
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What means more going into this weekend, your third-place finish here last year or your second-place finish last week?
“Definitely a good place for my race team. Last year we had a lot of fun racing here in The Glen and obviously I have a – I feel like the race team has good momentum from last week. It had been a little bit rough before that, but I feel like you are as good as your last race, so right now we are as good as our last race and our last race was pretty good. We have to build on that and try to keep the momentum up for this weekend and try to take advantage of it.”
What kind of road racing experience did you have before racing in NASCAR here in the United States aside from your karting experience in Mexico?
“That’s pretty much it. I didn’t have a lot of road course experience or roval experience when I was young, just go-karts and that’s pretty much all I did on a road course. After that I jumped, pretty much straight to the stock car stuff which became more ovals than road course racing. It’s been pretty much just go-karts. I feel like go-karts is like the base of everything, it really helps a lot, but it’s very different as well because – just the weight and the way that it drives. In the go-kart you can do everything extremely fast and in this car, you have to wait longer, but the basics are the same. I feel that has been helpful to be running well in road course racing.”
Talk about Christopher Bell’s hopes to get to Cup and what the challenges are like moving from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series in your career.
“Maybe that’s one of the biggest steps in racing. I felt like after winning the (Xfinity Series) championship, I felt like I was ready and then I moved up to the Cup Series and I felt like it was so much more difficult than what I was expecting. Sometimes you start to get some top-10s and you say ‘man, this is easy’. Then after that, that step is extremely difficult – to be running top-10 consistent and to be running in the top-five, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. You have to – you need to have a very good group of people working in exactly the same direction because you are competing with the best of the best. I feel like the Xfinity Series is a lot of fun and it’s very competitive, but the best of the best is in the Cup Series and I’m not talking just about drivers – engineers, crew chiefs, pit crews, everything. Everything is just more difficult. I think Christopher (Bell) has done an amazing job in the Xfinity Series and the competition is always very very good there and hopefully he can get that opportunity.”
Talk about what’s unique about driving here at Watkins Glen and what type of challenges the track presents?
“I think what is unique is how fast the race track is for a road course. I feel like we are going very fast through the esses, getting to the bus stop – we are going very very fast there. One of the biggest challenges that I think that we get here is that once we are in practice, we really feel the speed, we feel the car and everything, but once we get into the race, everything changes so much aero-wise, traffic and many different circumstances that you get are different in the race. Since my first time here I’ve been good and I like this place, since my K&N (Pro Series) days. I always have had a smile on my face coming into The Glen. Looking forward to this weekend. I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Like I said, my race team has been doing a lot of work lately and I have worked maybe the hardest I’ve ever worked in the last couple months to try to make sure that I get the right shot at the race track. Looks like we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep moving in that direction and show more of that this weekend.”
Do you feel that team information trickles down from the 18 team to your team?
“Well, all five teams pretty much – four teams, five teams – we work very closely together to get speed. Each team has their own engineers, crew chief, car chief, so we have the same base and then from there we move to the right, straight, back, left – our team decides where to go. For months, I feel like we were not making the right decisions. Earlier in the year I just felt like we didn’t have a lot of speed and we were struggling a little bit. I truly believe that to be fast at the race track, you need to have a fast car out of the hauler. That’s key. It’s impossible to make a 20th-place car – when you get the car out of the hauler to make that 20th-place car a winning race car by the end of second practice. That’s impossible. That doesn’t happen because everyone is improving and you cannot improve that much. You need to be close to the top-five to be able to have a shot to run top-five or to win a race. I feel like we were a little bit behind out of the hauler and that wasn’t something good and with today’s NASCAR schedule, we have two practices of one hour and 15 minutes and we don’t get time to make a lot of big adjustments and we don’t have a lot of testing either. We’re always a little bit behind and lately we’ve been working more close to the 18 (Kyle Busch) and personally I’ve been working a lot with Kyle as well. Actually, we have some good conversations lately and it’s been just a few weeks doing this – a few weeks, maybe four weeks working more close with everything that they are doing and I feel like the results have shown – in qualifying and speed-wise – everything has been better. I feel like now we are moving in the right direction. We have to learn from them. They’re extremely good. That’s why they’re one of the big three. Kyle is very good. His team is very good and I mean I would feel very dumb if I don’t take advantage of that, if I don’t learn from that. That’s exactly what I said to me and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Do you have thoughts on Michigan next week?
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about Michigan at all. I am one of those drivers who focus on the race weekend that we’re currently on. Everything is on that. All I know about Michigan right now is that it’s next up. I haven’t thought about it. Michigan has been a good place for me in the past with the Xfinity Series. Lately, in Cup there, we’ve been struggling a little bit. I don’t feel like it’s been a bad track for me. I feel like different circumstances have kept us out from good results. I feel like it’s a good track for me and I am looking forward to that. Right now, I haven’t spent a minute on Michigan.”
Has talking to Kyle Busch helped you in the past couple of weeks or something else?
“I feel like it’s a combination of things. The most important part is to have a close race car. We know we have the same chassis. They are the same. But if you have different everything, the car will be different. Lately, we’ve been working to be closer to them. And we have a lot of technology in the race car these days. We have data and pretty much everything. It’s press easy for a driver to see or know what they’re doing better or worse. I work to see that. I have a good friendship with Kyle and can go to him with what he’s seeing or doing. He’s always been helpful. We have had good conversations this week about everything. About the balance of the last month and last few months. He has a lot of experience. He always tells me his perspective and how to get better.”
When you see Kyle’s data, how easy it to understand what he’s doing and do what he’s doing?
“That was the biggest challenge we had three months ago. Three months ago, I was able to see what he was doing and I was trying it. I couldn’t do everything he was doing. That was an issue. It takes time. It’s not like a switch where you’re off and then you turn it on and are now running upfront. It doesn’t work like that. It takes a lot of time. They No. 18 group has been together for a long time. That’s why they’re very good. And I bet the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) guys are the same and the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) are the same, too. It takes time and good chemistry to know one another. It takes talent to be as strong as these guys are. We are not there yet but we have one of those guys in our team and we have to advantage of that and learn from that and move forward. Like I said, the last four weeks have been better it seems. Sometimes we’re showing that that at the race track, other times we are not. But, I feel like we have way more speed than we had before. And I understand Joey (Logano) when he says he’s looking at data from the No. 4, and says to his teammate, there’s no way I can do that and make that thing turn.”
What can you take this weekend to use for the roval?
“I think that’s a question like Michigan earlier. I haven’t even thought about the roval. I was thinking about it for a week when we were testing over there. That was a lot of fun. It was different. You have a lot of tight corners but you have some fast corners, too. You have both. It’s not like Sonoma (Raceway) where everything is as low or everything is as fast. So you have both. I thought it was a lot of fun to do some laps by myself. I don’t know what will happen when you add another 40 cars in there. We will find out.”