While talking with NASCAR America’s Dave Burns for this week’s “Splash & Go,” Daniel Suarez had a clear message for his competitors in the Cup Series.
“Keep being nice to me and we’ll be fine,” Suarez said.
Or as Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk, would say: don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Michael McDowell found this out on Friday when his confrontation with Suarez on pit road during qualifying at ISM Raceway resulted in Suarez throwing him to the ground and then Suarez being held on the hood of McDowell’s car.
The scuffle was the product of McDowell impeding the path of Suarez during his qualifying run, which Stewart-Haas Racing had planned for days due the importance of track position on the 1-mile track.
“We had a big plan for Friday,” Suarez told NBC Sports. “Maybe like never before. To get screwed the way we did. Five days of preparation for one day and to get screwed like that, I wasn’t very happy. My team wasn’t happy and they were not expecting me to react the way I did. But I wasn’t very happy with how things worked out.”
Suarez, who wound up qualifying 28th, had left pit road with three minutes left in the first round. That should have been “plenty of time” to make his run.
“We were pushing it, but we were not pushing it too hard,” Suarez said. “Because it was the first round. I knew that I needed to race that lap 80 percent, 90 percent. To get screwed liked that, that was my problem.”
Adding to his frustration was that McDowell wasn’t yet on his own qualifying lap.
“If he was stopping on the back straightaway and then going again he had nothing to lose,” Suarez said. “That was my biggest, biggest fire that I had inside. I feel like it was a lack of respect. When someone (shows) a lack of respect, you have to settle things up.”
While many may have been surprised to see Stewart-Haas Racing’s newest driver lose his cool, Suarez said those close to him know what happens when you push the limits with him.
“I have a little of me that’s like a switch, I just fire up really quick, Suarez said. “But I have to get there.”
Being employed by one of NASCAR’s more notorious hot heads in Tony Stewart also hasn’t influenced him.
“I feel like I’ve been that way my entire life and my entire career,” Suarez said. “When things don’t go as they’re planned, for circumstances you can’t control, you get disappointed. But when things get more away from the plan because of someone else, you’re going to get mad and disappointed. We all in the Cup Series, we’re very passionate. That’s why we’re there. Sometimes things get a little out of control. That’s part of racing sometimes. You just have to let people know that they have to respect the way you think and if you’re given respect … I expect that respect back. If I don’t get that, that’ll be something I don’t like.”
In a twist of faith granted by the marketing gods, Suarez has been paired with WWE wrestler Rey Mysterio in a cross-promotion effort. Mysterio will be a guest of Suarez’ this weekend at Auto Club Speedway and will drive the pace car to start the race.
Would Suarez accept an invitation into a real wrestling ring?
“I think I would be concerned to jump into that one,” Suarez said. “I think I could get my butt kicked in that one. I have a lot for respect for what these guys do. They jump high. They hit hard.”