Suarez planning to make the most of rare opportunity
By Rick Minter/Universal Uclick
In a NASCAR world where rookies often get great rides in top cars, Daniel Suarez is getting one of the rarest of opportunities. The 25-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native and NASCAR’s reigning Xfinity Series champion, is moving to the Monster Energy Cup Series as a raw rookie, but will be driving for one of the best teams in the business.
He’ll take over the No. 19 Toyota team at Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that Carl Edwards left at the end of last season. Edwards was in position to win the 2016 championship with 10 laps remaining in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but lost his chance at the title when he collided with Joey Logano on a late restart.
Now that team, led by veteran crew chief Dave Rogers, will prepare the No. 19 for Suarez.
Despite never having run a Cup race, Suarez has tallied 68 Xfinity races and 27 more in the Camping World Truck Series over the past three seasons, with three Xfinity wins and one in trucks. He joins a team headed by Rogers, who has led his drivers to 18 Cup wins, 85 top-five and 132 top-10 finishes and 20 poles.
Suarez said that while there is pressure in moving to a proven team like the No. 19, it also takes a lot of pressure off of him.
“It does give me a lot of confidence to know that I’m with a team that is capable of winning races and championships,” Suarez said. “Hopefully we can improve throughout the year and get to a point where we can be competitive to win races.”
Suarez has three veteran teammates — Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin — to help him as well as Edwards.
“I think we have the potential to work together more once the season starts,” Suarez said of his Gibbs teammates. “They have been very helpful. Carl, even though he’s not going to be racing, I will be talking with him pretty often.”
In his move from racing in the NASCAR Mexico Series, where he had 10 wins in 58 starts, to racing in the U.S., Suarez has been backed by ARRIS, a company based in Suwanee, Georgia, that manufacturers the equipment used by cable operators to provide services to homes and businesses.
Last week, ARRIS, which also sponsored Edwards, announced that it was increasing its primary sponsorship of the No. 19 team from 17 to 22 races this year.
“Daniel represents the future of racing, and we’re looking forward to joining him on the podium in his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season,” Ron Coppock, executive vice president of global marketing and customer operations at ARRIS, said in a team release.