Daniel Suarez: ‘Everything has been happening very fast’

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Daniel Suarez doesn’t remember his first lap in a NASCAR Cup car, but he remembers the second.

“My second lap I was sideways, I can tell you that,” Suarez told NBC Sports in a Wednesday phone interview. “I’m one of those drivers I think I’m a little smart, but I drive the car (hard) every lap, I was trying to do it the second lap, which wasn’t very smart.”

Suarez recalled the experience while in Atlanta for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion’s Tour, or as Suarez called it, “the last day … to celebrate”  his 2016 Xfinity title.

Suarez was just a week removed from his first time ever driving a Cup car, in a organizational test at Phoenix Raceway. It was the first time Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 team was concerned about Suarez instead of Carl Edwards, who announced in January he was stepping away from the sport.

The two-day test came 20 days after Suarez was announced as replacing Edwards. That was 54 days after Suarez became the first foreign-born driver to win a title in one of NASCAR’s national series.

It’s been a hectic month for Suarez, who been busy with the NASCAR Media Tour, photo shoots and other sponsor duties Edwards had already done in December.

“Everything has been happening very fast, but it’s been very good,” Suarez said. “Getting to know what it’s like to a part of a Cup team. It’s very different than the Xfinity team. Trying to learn everything as quick as possible, with the first race just around the corner next weekend. We have to put ourselves into speed to get that race and try to be strong.”

Suarez’ first Cup action will come in the Advanced Auto Part Clash on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway, but his Cup acclimation began on the 1-mile Phoenix Raceway. The 25-year-old did his best to treat the first day of the rest of his career like any other.

“I tried to just do it,” Suarez said. “Not think too much about it and try to do it. Actually, it was very good. It was a super productive test with the 19 Cup crew. I felt like we learned a lot from each other, the communication, our chemistry. We have a lot of confidence that we’re going to have a very, very positive 2017 season starting in Daytona next week.”

His learning process began with the help of his predecessor. Edwards, a two-time winner at Phoenix, was on hand to provide any insight that could help Suarez get a boost on his rookie season.

“He told me a lot of advice about Phoenix in the Cup car,” Suarez said. “It’s something very different than from what I’m used to. It was good to have advice from someone like him. He’s very good, he has a lot of wins there. It was good to have him there the first day of the test. He helped us to move forward faster than normal.”

If the last two months were fast for Suarez, it only will escalate next week as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives at Daytona. In the last two years, Suarez has made six starts on the 2.5-mile superspeedway in the Xfinity and Truck Series.

What lesson Suarez has learned from those races will he take with him into the biggest race week of his career?

“I’ve learned one thing, that patience is very important,” Suarez said. “Patience pays back most of the time.”

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NASCAR America: Was Kyle Busch wrong to blame Joey Logano?

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It wasn’t so much that Martin Truex Jr. kept Kyle Busch from winning the championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

At least that’s not the way Busch saw it.

Busch felt he had the race car and the speed to track down Truex and eventually pass him – had it not been for Joey Logano.

An upset Busch said after the race to NBC Sports that he felt Logano may have impeded his progress but on Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both agreed that Logano did nothing wrong, that he was trying to win the race himself.

Here’s some of what the analysts had to say:

Jarrett: “It’s not just the four championship drivers that are out there competing, everyone else is out there and they have an agenda. Joey Logano has had a bad year by his standards, so he was trying to get everything he possibly could.

“But, here’s another thing I’ll say: Joey Logano really did nothing wrong there. And something that all drivers, not just Kyle Busch, that you have to think about … things that you might have done to rile a competitor, you never know when that might come back to get you.

“We talk about paybacks all the time. It doesn’t have to be somebody wrecking somebody to pay back, all they have to do in a critical situation is hold you up a little bit. I don’t know if that’s what Joey Logano was doing or not or just racing as hard as he could and that made it difficult for Kyle Busch to get by.

“… I think it was simply racing. It was unfortunate for Kyle, but it’s part of the way the playoff system works here in NASCAR.”

Here’s what Kligerman had to say:

“I think at that point of the race, there was still a chance for Joey Logano to rally and go challenge for a win. … That’s what you have to deal with, that’s what racing over 38 weeks is about in the Cup Series, racing 39, 40 cars every week. You have to race those guys. … Kyle Busch had one of the fastest cars, but was Joey Logano the only one that was really the problem. As they came to the end, Kyle Larson was in the picture a little bit. You can’t put the blame on Joey Logano. He was just driving his race.”

Hear more about what they had to say in the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first moments of retirement

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As soon as he crossed the checkered flag in Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. morphed from race car driver to retired race car driver.

And what better way to begin retirement than with a party, and that’s what Junior did with his team, friends and fans along the frontstretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both spoke about how Junior sailed on into retirement.

Among their comments:

Kligerman: “It was maybe an hour and a half and there was still this swarm of people around his car. He and his team were sitting there, drinking beer and hanging out, he was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. It was just incredible to see him just sitting there and taking in the moment.”

Jarrett added about the role and impact Rick Hendrick had upon Junior’s life and career both on and off the track: “Rick Hendrick came in and got in Dale Jr.’s life at a time that Junior really needed someone and needed that support, that father figure, if you will. Rick Hendrick is just so good at that. Rick’s been through a lot in his life, Dale Jr. has been that. The two of them together did a lot of real good things and were good for each other.”

Check out more of what Jarrett and Kligerman had to say in the video above.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Jarrett, Kligerman on role Sherry Pollex played in Truex’s championship

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman talked about the key role Sherry Pollex played in Martin Truex Jr.‘s run for the NASCAR Cup championship — not just in Sunday’s race, but through the whole season as a source of inspiration and motivation.

First, here’s some of what Kligerman said:

“She’s a massive inspiration. I can’t imagine what she’s going through. For what Martin and this team have all gone through, and to have the success they’re having on the track, and all this going on off the racetrack, it’s just incredible.

“To bring inspiration to people’s lives, that’s really impactful. They are going through a tough time and it’s easy to get down when you’re going through a tough time. But they’re using their success on the racetrack to bring inspiration to other people. That’s one of the best things you can possibly do, I believe.”

And here’s some of Jarrett’s insight:

“She’s just an amazing person and you can tell just the inspiration she has been to Martin Truex Jr. to just never give up and never waver.

“You never hear them talk about the struggles, only when they’re asked about it. They don’t talk about how difficult their life is, because they know others are probably struggling more than they are at times.

“But they’re such good people and it’s really good to see good things happen to good people that really give their all and are an inspiration to others.

“I don’t care who you might have been a fan of and pulling for … you had to feel good to have this end this way because they’ve been through a lot, and they’ll continue to go through that, but they have a championship to show for all those struggles, hard work and effort.”

See and hear more of Jarrett’s and Kligerman’s analysis in the video above.

Also, check out what Truex had to say about how important his father was to his development as a race car driver — and now a Cup champion — in the video below.

 

Roush Fenway Racing to field three-driver Xfinity development team in 2018

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Roush Fenway Racing announced Monday it will field a full-time driver development team next season in the Xfinity Series.

Ty Majeski, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe will share driving duties behind the wheel of the No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang.

In addition, Team Penske and Ford Performance will also collaborate in the venture.

Mike Kelley, who led Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to two Xfinity championships, will serve as crew chief for the No. 60.

“All three of these drivers have exhibited a great deal of potential on and off the track,” Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said in a press release. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch as they hone their skills together and grow into the next generation of champions in our sport.”

Here are the drivers:

* Majeski recently earned his fourth consecutive ARCA Midwest Tour championship, winning six of 12 races. He also competed in 32 Late Model races this year, winning 20 and finishing top-3 in 29. He’s also ranked the No. 1 iRacer in the world, with over 830 wins in 1,112 starts. He finished 10th Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his third Xfinity start.

* The 19-year-old Cindric has won races in rallycross, IMSA, ARCA, the NASCAR K&N Series and the Camping World Truck Series. In his rookie season in Trucks this year, he advanced to the championship round. In 2017, he had one win, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s.

* Briscoe had one win (season finale Friday at Homestead), 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes and finished sixth in the points standings in his rookie season in Trucks. He won the 2016 ARCA championship by more than 500 points over the series’ runner-up with six wins and led nearly 1,000 laps.