Daniel Suarez is now one year and three months into his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and he feels “OK” about his development.
Not surprisingly, when asked how far he feels he’s come since Speedweeks in Feb. 2017 until now, Suarez said there are still areas he needs to work on to be more consistent. But since moving into the series earlier than expected with the No. 19 team, Suarez has made noticeable improvement and comes into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway riding a wave of five top-11 finishes in six races, which includes a runner-up effort in last weekend’s All-Star Race.
“To push the limits maybe sometimes a little bit more, but I feel like we are good,” Suarez said of himself. “We’re on the right track. I wish we can run more often in the top five to be able to win races, but it’s tough. The Cup Series is not easy at all.”
In his two full Xfinity Series seasons, Suarez skyrocketed to the top with three wins, 45 top-10 finishes and championship performances of fifth and first. When cars hit the track, Suarez was often among those at the top of the board.
In the Cup Series, even driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, that’s not as easy as it might seem.
While last season it took Suarez until the Watkins Glen road course in August to earn a top-five finish — his only top-five of the year — he had been steadily knocking on the door.
“And I told myself, at this point in my career in Cup [if] we are already in the top-10s we are going to be running top five and maybe knocking on the door to wins here very soon, and that’s not the case,” Suarez said. “It’s just very tough because the competition is always changing and it’s difficult and I feel like we have to keep working on it.”
Suarez already has one top-five finish this season (third at Dover). And he’s on pace to potentially surpass his top-10 mark from a year ago when he earned 12 in 36 races (he’s already at four).
“That next step from being running a top-10 car to running a top-five and being able to win races is a very difficult one, and it’s been taking me a while to make it right,” said Suarez. “We’ve been right there, but not very consistent, so that’s my goal – personal goal and my team obviously as well.
“I feel like now we are moving in the right direction. Obviously, results like Dover and last weekend really help us to build from that, and hopefully, we can keep doing that.”