By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Heading into Phoenix International Raceway, perhaps no one in the XFINITY Series has more momentum than Daniel Suarez.
The 2015 Rookie of the Year, Suarez has opened the first three races with three top 10’s, including a runner-up finish last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That finish enabled Suarez to take over the championship lead for the first time in his young NASCAR career.
Suarez, 24, is no stranger to Phoenix International Raceway. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate raced in NASCAR’s Mexican touring series, winning at the 1-mile oval in 2014.
Suarez said Phoenix was “like my second home” on Friday in a conference with the media. A win on Saturday would certainly mean a lot to the young Mexican driver, however his biggest completion may come from within the Joe Gibbs Racing stable in teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.
Busch, the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, competes in the XFINITY Series at select races and it just so happens Phoenix is on his agenda this weekend. Busch led 199 of 200 laps last Saturday in Las Vegas and held off a charging Suarez in the closing laps.
Jones is competing for Rookie of the Year honors this year in the XFINITY Series and has found success at every level thus far in his brief career, finishing in the top six in all three previous series starts at Phoenix and winning two of three in the Camping World Truck Series events there.
For Suarez, the task is tall but he is proving up to the challenge.
“Yeah, definitely it can be a really, really good feeling for us, but until that we have to work hard and we still have a lot of work left for today in the second and third practice,” said Suarez.
“I tried to put a good race car together for tomorrow, which I think we are going to be able to do that and after that try to beat our teammate Kyle Busch. He has been unbelievable fast, but you know what it’s been really good to learn from him and to be battling with him side-by-side because at the end of the day we’re learning from the best drivers because he’s one of the best drivers out there right now.
“So, we’ve been good but definitely we know when he’s winning the races and we are just close together with him we know there’s something there that we have to keep improving and getting better. So, definitely it can be a really good feeling but we have to keep working to be a little closer to him or even a little better.”
Following the second practice session Suarez sat second on the time sheets, behind Jones and ahead of Busch.
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