A frustrated Daniel Suarez said he just wanted to “go home” after his Daytona 500 hopes ended Thursday night.
Suarez was involved in an accident halfway through the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel race. Sent to the garage early, Suarez finished 22nd, last, and did not transfer into the 62nd annual Daytona 500.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Suarez. “All I want to do is just go home.
“I don’t know if the 2 [Brad Keselowski] was going to pit or everyone else was going to pit; I don’t know what the deal (was). But the 2 got his hand out the window on the exit of (Turn) 4, and when I saw that, he started slowing down. I moved to the right to try to avoid him, and the 12 [Ryan Blaney] just didn’t give me enough room.
“But all those last calls, secret calls, whatever they want to call it, they just don’t work.”
Keselowski was making his way to pit road when Suarez quickly closed on him off Turn 4. Moving to the right to avoid Keselowski, Suarez bounced off Blaney and was hooked in the right rear and sent into the outside wall. The No. 96 Toyota also suffered damage from going through the infield grass.
Suarez’ Gaunt Brothers Racing team does not have the benefit of a charter although Suarez revealed during Daytona 500 Media Day they had been in the market for a couple of months trying to buy one; but found none available. And Suarez was not fast enough in single-car qualifying last Sunday to lock into the Daytona 500 on speed.
It has been less than a month since Suarez and Gaunt Brothers announced their partnership. The 28-year-old former Xfinity Series champion was left without a ride after being told he didn’t have the necessary funding to remain with Stewart-Haas Racing after one season.
Suarez has three full seasons under his belt at the NASCAR Cup Series level, and Gaunt will be the third team he’s competed for. However, the Marty Gaunt owned operation has never run a full season in its brief history and is taking on that venture for the first time this season.
With limited inventory and knowing they weren’t guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500, the team chose to skip the Busch Clash, which Suarez was eligible for in preparation for the season-opening event. After a disappointing qualifying effort last weekend, Suarez knew he would have to race hard Thursday night and admitted to feeling the pressure.
“Just a lot of frustration,” he reiterated after the accident. “A lot of frustration. Broken heart because I’ve been working my ass off to try to make this happen, and it just doesn’t work (out).”