A birthday celebration that eases pain of 2018 for Daniel Suarez

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Amid a day celebrating his 27th birthday and new Cup ride with Stewart-Haas Racing, Daniel Suarez confided how difficult 2018 was.

But without that season — and a series of events beyond his control — Suarez wouldn’t be with a Stewart-Haas Racing team that saw its four drivers win races last year and each advance to the third round of the playoffs.

The joy makes up for the frustration and angst Suarez experienced last year while at Joe Gibbs Racing. After finishing 20th in points as a rookie in 2017, more was expected last year from his team.

Suarez and his team didn’t deliver.

“I wish I knew many answers,” Suarez told NBC Sports on Monday about last season’s struggles. “I can tell you we were not even close to my expectations. As a driver, you always have your expectations and then as a team you plan the expectations of the team, and I don’t feel we got to either expectations.

“We had good results. We had a couple of second-place finishes and few top five finishes but (were) extremely inconsistent, extremely inconsistent. I don’t really know exactly what was the problem. I just know that in a year we were not able to fix it. We tried.

“Once I saw that something wasn’t right, I was pushing very hard with the team to try to fix it, and we just couldn’t. I don’t know. I felt like a change, it was going to be good for me. I’m very, very grateful for the opportunity that Gibbs gave me in the national series and Toyota, but once I moved to Cup, I felt like it was a little slow for myself. I was working extremely hard to fix that, I just couldn’t make it work.”

As Suarez struggled for results — he would finish 21st in the points — other factors were taking place that would impact his future.

Furniture Row Racing announced July 18 that 5-hour Energy would not return after the season, a blow to the Denver, Colorado-based team. Car owner Barney Visser was unable to replace the primary sponsorship for this season and announced Sept. 4 that the team would cease operations, leaving 2017 Cup champ Martin Truex Jr. without a ride.

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn would ink deals with Joe Gibbs Racing and join the organization in 2019. That meant JGR had to jettison one of its drivers. Suarez was told he would not be retained less than two years after winning the Xfinity title for JGR and not yet though his second full Cup season.

“I was very disappointed,” Suarez told NBC Sports. “I will tell you that for a month I was a different person. I was mad with everyone. I don’t feel that I was being a good person in general, not just in racing but in general.

“But then you just have to realize that everything happens for a reason. The position that I’m in today was something that maybe, who knows, without that change, who knows if I would have been able to do this move. I honestly feel like I’m in a better position than I was a year ago.

“I’m really relieved that everything happens for a reason, and I’m extremely grateful to have this second chance in a top-caliber team. I’m really excited to go out there and show what I can do and what I couldn’t do last year.”

Suarez admits he was worried for more than a month last year where he would race once JGR said it would let him go after the season. There were questions if sponsor Arris would remain at Joe Gibbs Racing or follow Suarez to another ride. The logical destination for Suarez was the No. 41 car at Stewart-Haas Racing with Kurt Busch leaving that ride, but Suarez would need to bring sponsorship. Without Arris, the chances of him being in that car — one that won a race last year and won the Daytona 500 two years ago — were less. Arris will sponsor Suarez’s ride, along with Haas Automation, at SHR.

“When things start to happen, you don’t really know who has your back and who doesn’t,” Suarez told NBC Sports. “I thought a lot of people had my back at one point and then the next week all of a sudden everything changed. There were a lot of questions. A lot of questions without answers. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t just a fun month or so. Like I said, everything started to get on track, everything started to get better, a better idea of where everything was going to go.

“I just feel very, very happy to be in the position I’m in today with great teammates, a great organization.”

While he hasn’t worked with new teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola before, he’s spent time with them.

Suarez said that he’s known Harvick since running in the Xinfity Series. Suarez often asked Harvick questions or for advice on matters. Same with Bowyer. Suarez and Almirola often rode bikes in the same group last year at the track.

Now he will seek to help them repeat what they did last year by getting every SHR car back to Victory Lane.

“That’s something that is very, very hard to do,” Suarez told NBC Sports. “Sometimes people don’t realize. Most of the big team teams, they have very good programs, but they don’t every single car winning and up front. Stewart-Haas Racing was able to do that. You know when you are able to do that you have an extremely good group of people behind those programs working extremely hard.”

Suarez is confident he can win in the No. 41 car this year with crew chief Billy Scott. Suarez cites the new package teams will run this year and notes he finished second to Harvick in the All-Star Race when a similar package was tried last year.

“I will say to myself, why not?” Suarez said of winning this year. “The team is good, strong. The team is pretty much exactly the same. The only part that has changed is the driver. The rules are different. I feel those rules, if anything, are going to help me based on what I experienced in the All-Star Race. I have high expectations. The team has high expectations as well.

“I feel there is a lot of potential to do great things this year.”

Nate Ryan contributed to this report

Daniel Suarez to drive No. 41 car for Stewart-Haas Racing

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Daniel Suarez will drive the No. 41 Ford Mustang Cup car for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2019, the team announced Monday on Suarez’s 27th birthday. The announcement also comes 41 days before the Daytona 500. 

Arris, a long-time backer of Suarez, and Haas Automation will sponsor Suarez’s car.

“This is the best birthday present I could ask for,” said Suarez in a statement from the team. “We’ve all seen how competitive Stewart-Haas Racing is – all of their drivers won last year and all of them advanced deep into the playoffs. This is the opportunity every driver wants, and now I have it. I want to deliver for this team, our partners in Haas Automation, Arris and Ford and, ultimately, for me. We have everything we need to be successful.”

Suarez fills the last remaining open seat with a charter Cup team. The move had been anticipated for weeks. He replaces Kurt Busch, who moved to Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 1 car this season.

Suarez enters his third Cup season after spending the past two at Joe Gibbs Racing. He lost his ride so the organization could bring in Martin Truex Jr. Truex was available when his ride at Furniture Row Racing went away when the team ceased operations after the 2018 season.

Saurez joins a Stewart-Haas Racing team that won 12 of 36 points races last year but will have a new car with Ford using the Mustang in Cup this season.

Suarez becomes the youngest Cup driver at Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick is 43 years old, Clint Bowyer is 39 and Aric Almirola is 34.

In two seasons in Cup, Suarez has four top-five finishes and 21 top 10s in 72 starts. He won the 2016 Xfinity championship at Joe Gibbs Racing.

“In each series Daniel has raced in, he’s advanced quickly from rookie to race winner,” co-owner Tony Stewart said in a statement from the team. “In four years, he went from the K&N Series to the NASCAR Cup Series. In between, he won an Xfinity Series championship, and he did it all while learning a new language and a new culture. He’s dedicated, he’s talented and we’re proud to have him as a key part of our race team.”

Said co-owner Gene Haas in a statement from the team: “We’re in racing to win and we believe Daniel Suarez can win in the NASCAR Cup Series. “Haas Automation is a global brand and our success is directly attributable to how we’ve leveraged the Haas name in racing. We use motorsports to showcase our latest technology and to attract the best talent in engineering and design. Daniel allows Haas Automation to strengthen its ties to the Mexican community by racing the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang.”

The season begins Feb. 10 with the Advance Auto Parts Clash, a race Suarez is eligible for with his pole last season. The Daytona 500 is Feb. 17.

Daniel Suarez on his future: ‘Everything happens for a reason’

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Daniel Suarez, the subject of reports that Martin Truex Jr. will take his ride next year at Joe Gibbs Racing, said Sunday he could say very little about his future.

“We don’t really have a lot to say,” Suarez stated as he walked to the drivers meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I’m not really allowed. You will have to talk to somebody from Joe Gibbs.

“Everything happens for a reason. I think we are going to be in good shape.”

The 26-year-old driver from Mexico is in his second Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing. He won the 2016 Xfinity championship to become the first Latin American to win a NASCAR national series title.

Reports have stated that Martin Truex Jr. will move to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 team after this season with Furniture Row Racing’s announcement that it won’t return after this season. Such a move would force Suarez to find another ride for 2019.

Asked if he could say if he would be back at Joe Gibbs Racing, Suarez said Sunday: “I don’t know, man. Everything is in the air. Nothing is signed. Nothing is on paper. A lot of rumors. I see a lot of things you guys do.”

Asked if sponsor Arris was aligned with him, which would allow him to take the sponsor to another ride if needed, or the team, Suarez said: “I don’t know. All I can tell you is I have a great relationship with them. They like me a lot. We have a friendship, but I don’t have anything directly with them. They’re with the team.”

Suarez enters today’s race at Indy 20th in the points. He must win this race to make the playoffs. All three of this JGR teammates, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin have clinched playoff spots.

A possible landing spot for Suarez could be Leavine Family Racing, which is looking for a driver after Kasey Kahne announced that he would not return and run full-time in NASCAR next year. Car owner Bob Leavine has expressed an interest in joining Toyota next year.

 

 

ARRIS extends sponsorship agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing

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ARRIS has renewed its multi-year sponsorship agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing, the company announced. ARRIS will sponsor Daniel Suarez in 22 races this season (up from 17 last year with Carl Edwards).

“We had a great run with the legendary Carl Edwards, and now we’re proud to continue our work with JGR by extending our race-day sponsorship to 22 events in support of Daniel Suárez’s history-making trajectory,” said Ron Coppock, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Customer Operations at ARRIS in a statement. “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.”

ARRIS also announced that it is continuing its support of young Latin American drivers by renewing its sponsorship of Abraham Calderon, who won the Freightliner Truck Series in Mexico last year, and sponsoring 21-year-old Mexican driver Fabian Welter, who is in the Telemex Driver Development Program.

ARRIS first became involved in NASCAR in 2014 with its sponsorship of Edwards and Suarez.

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