Daniel Suarez has found some light in what has thus far been a gloomy start to the NASCAR Cup Series season with Gaunt Brothers Racing.
A week after failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, Suarez did not see the green flag in Las Vegas either, as his No. 96 Toyota suffered a mechanical issue at the start of the race and he was left coasting down the frontstretch and needing assistance back to pit road. After losing multiple laps, Suarez finished 30th out of the 38 starters.
But Friday at Auto Club Speedway — stop number three on the circuit — Suarez said he doesn’t need anything special to happen this weekend.
“Las Vegas was actually a very good race for me,” admitted Suarez. “A lot of people don’t know this, but I left Las Vegas very happy. The way the team progressed and the way everything went out after that problem in the beginning of the race, I was actually very pleased with the way everything worked out.”
Suarez believes that had he started the race without any issue, he could have finished inside the top 22. He was pleased with how competitive his laps times were all day, despite never being in contention.
“The car was fast enough to do that,” he said.
Suarez missed the Daytona 500 due to a crash in his Duel qualifying race. Gaunt Brothers does not have a charter to fall back on this year, so when more than 40 teams enter an event, Suarez must qualify on speed. There were 38 teams entered in Las Vegas and again this weekend at Auto Club.
“We have a lot of work to do,” continued Suarez. “We are still building the team, still hiring some people and figuring out a way to get cars and stuff like that. We have to keep working. Right now, I feel like this weekend is going to be tough. The fact that this racetrack really needs a lot of downforce and a lot of grip, because the racetrack doesn’t have it, you need to work a lot in the car — and unfortunately, we just don’t have that.
“I feel like this is one of those places that I have to work extra hard to make up for everything the car isn’t giving me.”
NASCAR Cup Series teams will qualify for the Auto Club 400 (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday afternoon. Friday, Suarez was 33rd fastest in opening practice and 31st in final practice.
With just 39 starts under their belt as a Cup Series team, Gaunt Brothers will compete at Auto Club for the first time Sunday. Another step in the learning and growing process, and with a driver who admittedly isn’t very patient.
“That’s the way it is sometimes,” said Suarez. “You have to work through various circumstances. I feel very proud to have great people around me. Marty Gaunt, Toyota and their support behind us, and CommScope and Coca-Cola, they’ve been with me for a long time.
“I feel like I have great people and great companies behind this program. Have to be patient and keep building and keep growing.”