Toyota Racing – Daniel Suárez
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Phoenix International Raceway – March 17, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suárez was made available to the media at Phoenix International Raceway:
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk a little bit about your experience and transition up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix.
“Overall, Phoenix is one of those places that doesn’t matter which series I’m going in, I feel very comfortable going. It’s a place that I feel like I have maybe the most experience of the NASCAR racetracks that we go on this year, 2017. It’s always fun to come here and to race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It will be very helpful to have that test over a month ago. Hopefully we can put something that we learn for today’s practice, hopefully be strong for Sunday.”
Daniel, each of the last three races, your finishes have gotten better than the week before. What’s changed to bring that better performance and results for you?
“I think definitely we have still a long ways to go. In this sport, it’s super important to have good communication, good chemistry. All that takes some time. My first race ever with Dave Rogers was in Daytona. We all know it’s a different kind of racetrack than everything else that we race. My first real regular racetrack was in Atlanta. First race in a Cup car was in Atlanta. I feel like we are getting there. I don’t think we have showed the speed that we should, what we should have. But we’re making a lot of gains. I’m hoping that sooner or later those gains are going to show up at the racetrack. I know that my team has big capacity to be strong and to be competitive. I know that I can do the job. We just have to work on the communication. I have to know more Dave and my team. Dave has to know more myself, how I like to drive the racecar. I’m sure once we work on all these little details, we’re going to be fine. We just, you know, need some time to understand each other a little bit more.”
Did Carl Edwards give you any advice on how to race here at the Phoenix Raceway?
“Yeah, definitely you have to race this racetrack very different between the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I learned some good stuff from him. In the NASCAR XFINITY Series, I’ve been lucky enough to be successful pretty much every time that we come here. We have a lot of top‑five and top‑three finishes. Now in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s a little bit different. You have more power and less grip. That makes things a little bit more difficult. You have to work just a little bit different. For sure, was very helpful to have Carl (Edwards) here in that test day that we had over a month ago.”
Has running the NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Las Vegas and this weekend at Phoenix helped with your Monster Energy Cup program?
“It helps. It definitely does help. I can tell you something, is very different. I’m used to racing two series in the same weekend, between the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series. Now racing XFINITY Series and Cup Series is pretty different. There’s a lot more going on. The Cup Series is a way, way more demanding race. But overall I think it’s very helpful. I have several races this year in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, 18, one more in the 20, if I’m right. I feel like actually in Vegas I learned some good stuff from the tires. That’s a good thing. As far as we have the same tire, there’s a lot that you can learn. If for some reason they start changing that, maybe won’t be as helpful. But there is always something that you can learn from the XFINITY Series to apply in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.”
Can you talk about how much your lifestyle and responsibilities have changed from last year to this year.
“Yeah, well, now I spend more days at the racetrack than my house (laughter). That’s a little bit different. But all is good. I pretty much have worked my entire life to be sitting here right now. It’s been a hell of a journey so far. I have enjoyed every single moment of it. Last year was amazing. The year before was very, very good, as well. This year, so far it’s been a little bit tough. I knew it was going to be like that. Everything has been happening so quick. But we are going to get up to speed here very quick. Everything has been wide open, a lot of stuff going on, not just in the racetrack but as well out of the racetrack. But all has been very good. I’m really looking forward to keep digging and to put those good results in the racetrack.”
Daniel, can you ever imagine a time where you would get so comfortable behind the wheel of a racecar that you would just ride and not race your guts out every lap?
“I think when you get to that point, you start winning races. When you get to that point where being fast and being competitive in the front is still in your comfortable zone, that’s very, very good. That means that for you it’s normal to race in the top five, in the top ten, just like all the top drivers. They race in the front, top five, top ten is normal. They don’t have to drive 110%, wrecking every single lap, to race there. I think all of that comes with experience. We have to think, as well, that we are racing with people that they’ve been doing this for long time, and they know exactly what they are doing. They know where they need to be. Their communication and chemistry with their team is very, very good. They know the racetracks very well. So they have a big advantage. But I’m lucky enough that I have a great team behind me, and people that is working very, very hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for myself. I think we just need a little bit of time. We’re going to be there hopefully being competitive and racing for top 10s, then a little bit more, then making our way to the front.”
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in the first three weeks?
“Well, the biggest thing I have learned in the last few weeks is that normally in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, when you are a little bit off, you still in the top 10. When you’re a little bit off in the Cup car, you’re 21st, 25th. So it’s a big difference. You make that gain back, then you are in the top 10, you’re in the top 15. It’s very competitive. I can tell you the best drivers in the world are here in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Never said it was going to be easy. But we have to work hard. I know I have the team. I know that I have the things that it takes to be competitive in this level. We just need to put our stuff together and go to work.”
Are you fortunate that you have top‑line equipment to hide some of the rookie mistakes that you’re making?
“Yeah, that’s super important. I’m very lucky that I got my first opportunity in a Cup car in a super good team and car. It’s just a team that they know that they can win races. Now we need to put that to myself. We need to build that communication, that chemistry. That takes some time. But smart people normally take less time, so hopefully we can be part of the smart people.”