By David Morgan, Associate Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – To say that Daniel Suarez was caught off guard by the news that he would be out of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford at season’s end would be an understatement.
In fact, Suarez seemed as shocked as everyone else about the way everything played out and the steps that led to him being out and Cole Custer replacing him in the SHR Cup Series program.
“I am a little disappointed,” Suarez said. “A lot of people have worked very hard on this team to try to put everything together and unfortunately it wasn’t enough. We needed a few months. We had to find a big amount of money to keep the ride for next year.
“My group of people, friends and a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing went to work and we actually did a pretty good job. We pretty much got the goal but unfortunately part of the money wasn’t on the table at this point. It was going to come a few months later and it wasn’t enough. It was a little unfortunate. It was a surprise. I was as shocked as you guys are probably right now, just a couple of nights ago. It is what it is. One door closes, another door opens.”
Suarez started his NASCAR career with Joe Gibbs Racing, but after an Xfinity Series championship in 2016 and two years in the Cup Series, he moved to SHR this season and looked to have a new lease on life, scoring four top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes.
Though he missed the Playoffs, all signs seemed to point to Suarez returning to the team in 2020. Until they didn’t.
Suarez acknowledged as much, noting a difference of opinion between SHR owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas as far as who should drive the No. 41 entry going forward. Stewart indicated he would like to have kept Suarez, while Haas had other plans.
“I am pretty sure that most of you saw me very confident because I knew where we were,” Suarez said. “I was 95% sure that we were in. I thought we were in good shape. I was extremely surprised.
“A lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing worked very hard to put everything together. It was disappointing to see that. Tony Stewart was pushing for me so hard. Brett Frood, a lot of people in Stewart-Haas Racing. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with Haas.”
Stewart seemed to echo Suarez’s comments, noting in an earlier press conference that the dealings with the No. 41 car are ultimately up to Haas.
“You know, it ultimately is Gene’s decision, but like I said, this is something that as a company we all agreed with and feel like that Cole has earned his right to be in the series and have an opportunity like this,” Stewart said.
“We still want to try to figure out how to help Daniel. I think he deserves to be in the Cup Series. It’s just a matter of how do we fit it all in, and when you’ve got a feeder series and you’ve got your own program to work young drivers up through there, sometimes you get in scenarios like this where you’ve got more drivers than you have cars.
“So, it’s a tough spot to be in for us as management, but like I said, we’re going to try to work with Daniel and see if we can find a solution to keep him in our system and hopefully get him back in a car one day.”
As far as his future in the sport, Suarez expressed his confidence that he would be able to find a place to race, whether it’s within the SHR family and Ford or elsewhere.
“I have had a lot of sacrifices in my life to be here,” he said. “Not just when I came here to the US, but even before that. To stay in racing and to do a lot of different things.
“As many of you know, I don’t come from a race family or from a lot of money or have a lot of contacts or anything like that. I am here because of myself. This has been tough. It is not fun to be in this position. I feel like I am strong and it has been a little difficult the last 24-hours.
“I couldn’t believe it because we did find a big amount of money. This is the position we are in now but I think good things happen to good people and I am sure good things are going to line up for me.”