Daniel Suarez’s second Media Tour as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver had a different feel to the first.
“For sure, I’m more relaxed,” Suarez said. “Last year I had a lot of things [on] my mind, and everything was happening so fast that the only thing I wanted was to go to the race track and drive. And right now, everything has been more smooth, everything has been happening more normal, and I believe that will help everyone to have a good start of the season.”
Last year, Suarez was thrown to the wolves when he inherited the No.19 car. Its previous driver, Carl Edwards, had abruptly announced his retirement on Jan. 11, 2017, and Suarez moved into the premier series with no previous Cup starts on his resume, and fresh off a Xfinity Series championship.
Both team owner Joe Gibbs and Toyota’s David Wilson heaped praise on Suarez at various points last year for moving into the series earlier than expected and performing well.
Suarez saw it a bit differently. Describing his rookie season as “OK” and acknowledging that quite a few changes were made along the way, including crew chief, car chief, and engineers, the Mexican said “that’s not the rookie season that everyone wants, but sometimes that’s what makes you tougher.”
Suarez often speaks of how much he learned in that first season. All those adjustments and changes have also resulted in putting the right people together for this season, he believes.
So, what about 2018? In year one, Suarez finished 20th in the standings with 12 top-10 finishes. He doesn’t believe it’s unrealistic for him and crew chief Scott Graves to be in the Championship 4 at Homestead.
“We have the tools to do it. We have the team. We have the equipment,” Suarez said. “We have everything; we just have to work hard. That is not something new for us. Have fun, and achieve our goals. If we do that, we can do anything.
“We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do. Last year, numbers-wise, wasn’t the year we were expecting, but we know that the changes and the adjustments that we’ve made are going to make a huge gain on our side.”