Suarez gets 2nd shot to prove self in NASCAR

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS EX­TRA - By Jenna Fryer

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Daniel Suarez will hit a re­set on his ca­reer, get­ting a sec­ond chance to prove he can win at NASCAR’s top level.

Pushed out of a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the top teams in the sport, Suarez found a soft land­ing at Ste­wart-Haas Racing. The SHR four-driver lineup com­bined for 12 vic­to­ries last sea­son and claimed half the spots in the round of eight in the play­offs.

“I came from a great team that is ca­pa­ble of win­ning races, but things just didn’t work out for me there,” Suarez said. “Maybe to win races in the Cup Se­ries, I needed some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Suarez didn’t have a choice be­cause he be­came ex­pend­able when Gibbs hired 2017 cham­pion Martin Truex Jr. That pushed Suarez out of a job af­ter two lack­lus­ter sea­sons, with few seats avail­able with top-tier teams. Suarez, who is Mex­i­can and ad­vanced through NASCAR’s di­ver­sity pro­gram, is the only non-Amer­i­can full-time driver at the top level.

It was crit­i­cal that Suarez find a com­pet­i­tive ride be­cause a seat with a medi­ocre team would have made it dif­fi­cult to prove he be­longs in the se­ries. He won the Xfin­ity Se­ries ti­tle driv­ing for Gibbs in 2016 but was hastily moved to the Cup Se­ries two months later when Carl Ed­wards abruptly re­tired.

He had 21 top-10 fin­ishes in 72 Cup races. Now Suarez will re­place Kurt Busch and drive the No. 41 Ford with a team that counts the Day­tona 500 among its six vic­to­ries and qual­i­fied for the play­offs in each of the four years Busch drove the car.

Suarez rec­og­nized how for­tu­nate he was to be re­leased from one top team and land at an­other. He spent months talk­ing to SHR but the deal was only con­firmed Mon­day, on Suarez’s 27th birth­day and 41 days be­fore he will make his de­but in the No. 41 at the sea­son-open­ing Day­tona 500. He’s hope­ful the fresh start will give him the launch he needs in the Cup Se­ries the way it did for Joey Logano, who was once dumped by Gibbs but be­came Cup cham­pion in Novem­ber driv­ing for Team Penske, or for Aric Almirola, who was a mid--pack racer un­til he joined SHR last sea­son and made the play­offs.

“I have done a lot of sac­ri­fices in my life and my ca­reer to be here,” Suarez told the AP. “I have been liv­ing in the U.S. al­most eight years now. I came here to win races and win cham­pi­onships, and I don’t like when peo­ple out­work me. I have been work­ing ex­tremely hard the last two years,, — I was able to show that in win­ning the (Xfin­ity) cham­pi­onship,, — but the last two years have just been OK. I re­ally felt like I was ei­ther do­ing some­thing wrong or needed some­thing dif­fer­ent.

“This is my sec­ond chance with a top team, and I am look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity.”

Suarez will be spon­sored by Ar­ris, a com­pany that has backed him since 2016, and Haas Au­to­ma­tion, which is owned by SHR co-founder Gene Haas.

“We’re in racing to win, and we be­lieve Daniel Suarez can win,” said Haas, not­ing that spon­sor­ing Suarez him­self helps the growth of his ma­chine tool build­ing com­pany.

“We use mo­tor sports 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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.