Daniel Suarez might not have known what he was doing on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he turned flying blind into a fourth-place finish on Monday.
“Honestly, I am just very, very proud of my team that they brought a very fast car, and I was able to learn as I went,” said Suarez. “It was a challenge. Probably five days ago was my first time ever in a dirt car. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it a lot.
“Overall, I felt that we’re very close. That always brings a smile to my face, but it wasn’t close enough. So, we have to keep working. Now I’m excited actually that we’re going to come back next year with another shot to race and compete for the win in Bristol on dirt.”
Last week, Suarez logged some laps in a late model at a track in Tennessee to experience dirt for the first time. But he also ran the Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol with Young’s Motorsports, which ran hours before the Cup Series race. Suarez finished 17th in the truck event.
It was in the second stage where Suarez and the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team impressed. While Suarez started 18th, he steadily and quickly drove forward, and eventually caught and drove around Martin Truex Jr. for the race lead on lap 135. Suarez led 58 laps and remained in the top five for the rest of the event. As the racetrack began to change, so too did Suarez’s car, and he lost rear grip and the ability to challenge for the lead again.
“It’s a learning curve,” Suarez said. “I’m still learning about all this dirt racing… I wasn’t expecting the racetrack to change that much, but it did. That’s something I have to keep in mind for next year.”
Bristol marks the first top-five finish for Suarez and Trackhouse Racing and their best finish to date. (It was previously 15th at Homestead). Through the first seven races, Suarez has led 74 laps with his new team, which is more than he led in 2020. And he already has one more top 10 finish than he earned last year.
“It was a really a good day for us running up front, leading laps, and staying in the top 10, top five the entire race,” Suarez said. “But if you look at it, last week we were very similar. I mean, we didn’t lead laps, but I made a mistake in the last pit stop, and that took away our chance to finish either fifth or sixth. It’s the second week in a row that we’ve been running strong.
“I don’t see this as, OK, we ran good because we’re on dirt. I feel like everyone at Trackhouse Racing has done an incredible job to work hard on these cars, get them better. We have a lot of support from RCR, engines and chassis, and everything. I feel like we are still a long way to go from where we want to be, but we’re heading in the right direction. Hopefully, we can compete in the top 10, top five like we’ve been doing the last couple weeks on a weekly basis, and eventually, we’re going to get a trophy.”