Daniel Suarez says he’s taken the pressure off himself and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, which is translating to results on the racetrack.
“I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself early in the season as well as putting a lot pressure on my team to get the results,” said Suarez. “And the last couple of months it’s been more relaxed, trying to have fun and definitely things are working better that way.”
Dover International Speedway was the latest example.
Suarez drove his best start-to-finish race in the AAA 400, qualifying the No. 19 Camry seventh, running up front and ending third, tying his career best. He had previously accomplished the feat last season at Watkins Glen, meaning Sunday afternoon was the first time he had finished in the top five on a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series oval.
The result was also the fourth consecutive top-11 finish for Suarez this season and his fifth in 11 starts.
“I’d like to say the entire year we’ve had good speed pretty much everywhere, top 10, top-five cars, we just haven’t been able to get the deal done,” Suarez said. “Especially in the first month and a half of the season, we struggled a lot. But now just very proud of my team.”
Suarez started the year with five finishes of 18th or worse.
The final pit stop was the turnaround for Suarez’s day. Following a 41-minute red flag for rain, Suarez entered pit road 10th before his Scott Graves-led crew gained five spots. The green flag flew on Lap 325 and Suarez quickly moved to third, where rode the rest of the race and held off a late charge from Martin Truex Jr.
By the end of the race, Suarez felt his car was its best.
“When you’re in the front, the car just came alive for whatever reason. A lot of clean and clean racetrack and the car is just faster,” said Suarez. “I was running most of the day sometimes in the top five, top 10 all day long and the car was strong running there, just going away a little bit too soon – my short-run speed wasn’t great. But once I was in the front, I was able to overcome that with clean air.
“Right there at the end, we had a top-five car. But just overall, proud of my guys. We had a rough first month and a half of the season, and in the last five weeks or so, we’ve been moving in the right direction. Very proud of my team, Stanley, Joe Gibbs Racing, ARRIS, Toyota and everybody that makes these results possible.”