By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Two
Career Wins: Zero Cup Wins, Three Xfinity Series Wins, One Truck Series Win
Biggest Accomplishment: 2016 Xfinity Championship
Joe Gibbs Racing has served as the base of operations for Daniel Suarez since he first entered NASCAR national series competition full-time back in 2015 and it’s been a wild ride for the Monterrey, Mexico native ever since, but this season things are changing as he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing to take over the vacated No. 41 Ford.
“This is definitely a huge opportunity,” Suarez said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity that I believe happens once in a lifetime. To have the opportunity to join a top caliber organization like Stewart-Haas Racing with great bosses, Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, and get an opportunity to work with great teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola is going to be a lot of fun to learn from these guys and learn together and hopefully put the new Ford Mustangs up front just like everyone did last year at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“That’s something that is very hard to do – win races with every single car of an organization. In today’s competition, it’s not easy to do and Stewart-Haas Racing was able to get it done. So, I’m very proud to call myself part of this family and I’m really looking forward to working hard with my new crew chief Bill Scott and the rest of the guys to put the 41 Ford Mustang up front and hopefully to win some races.”
In two full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series with JGR, Suarez made everyone stand up and take notice, amassing three wins, 27 top-five finishes, 45 top-10 finishes, six poles, and 430 laps led in 66 starts, along with the crowning achievement of his career – the 2016 NXS championship.
After Carl Edwards suddenly retired during the offseason between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Suarez got the nod, moving up to the Cup Series with JGR to run the No. 19 car.
Despite the accolades he had accumulated in the lower divisions, success in NASCAR’s top level didn’t come as easy and in two seasons, he had only scored four top-five finishes, 21 top-10 finishes, one pole, and 75 laps led in 72 starts. His tenure in the No. 19 car at JGR also came with points finishes of 20th and 21st in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
With driver and team not running as well as some predicted, Suarez was the odd man out at the end of the 2018 season, but losing his ride with JGR came with a bright spot on the horizon – Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I had a great time in the last four years racing with a good organization like Joe Gibbs Racing,” Suarez added. “We did good things together winning races and winning a championship in the XFINITY Series. The move to Cup was a little bit unexpected, but that year was a good year for us in 2017. Our expectations were high in 2018 and we didn’t do a good job as a team of getting to those goals and getting those results.
“I feel like a fresher start in the Cup Series and knowing the people and having a little more consistency people-wise and knowing what to expect and how to work with a good team, I feel like that is going to help me a lot.”
At his new home for the upcoming season, Suarez will be joining the organization’s already stout lineup, which includes Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola. Last season, the four SHR drivers combined for 12 wins en route to each of them making it into the playoffs, a first in company history.
With the performance that the Fords have shown in recent seasons, Suarez should be able to hit the ground running in 2019, immediately contending for top-five finishes, top-10 finishes, and finally breaking through to score that elusive first Cup Series win.
Nearly every driver that has joined SHR in recent years has seen a career resurgence and Suarez should be no different. Look for the No. 41 team to pick right up where they left off at the end of 2018 and be in the mix from the time the first green flag drops.
“We know this 41 team has been successful,” Suarez said. “They’ve won races and they contended for many races last year and a championship, so that tells me what this team is capable of. Billy Scott and the guys know each other very well and they’re going to work hard to bring the same speed or even more this year with a new package and I’m sure we’re going to deliver our goals and everything we’re expected to do for this year.”