Daniel Suarez is unconcerned about the hole his No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team will be in at the start of Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway after his car failed inspection three times.
It appeared to be a body issue and then a toe issue on Suarez’s Chevrolet. As a result, he will not only have to start at the rear for the Southern 500 but serve a pass-through penalty after the green flag. The team also lost their pit stall selection and car chief Eddie D’Hondt Jr.
Speaking after practice Saturday afternoon as he left pit road, not permitted to qualify, Suarez acknowledged he likes a challenge.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We’re going to beat them tomorrow.”
Crew chief Travis Mack didn’t detail what caused the car to have its issue.
“Just fighting a little of this, a little of that,” Mack said. “Nothing major. We’re talking 10, 12 thousandths on certain things on the car. Nothing that we pushed any harder than normal; just luck of the draw this week that. For some reason we failed three different things. It was back and forth, but we got it fixed, and it didn’t hurt the car at all, so we’re good.”
Suarez and Mack understand Sunday will be a long race that is likely to have plenty of cautions and pit stops. Teams have 13 sets of tires for the 501-mile race. Mack is confident that, with tire fall off and Darlington being a “great racetrack” to pass, they will overcome falling behind early.
“[Trackhouse] had really good cars in the spring and we’ll carry that over,” the crew chief said.
Suarez clocked in 16th in practice but was pleased with the speed of his car. He stacked up 13th fastest in the best 10 consecutive lap average.
“It’s a very long race. Definitely we’re in a little bit of a hole starting the race, but I’m not too worried about it,” said Suarez. “The car actually felt pretty good. I feel like we have a couple of adjustments to do and hopefully, we can make it a little bit better. If we can do that, we can have a shot to win the race.”
He said he fought a loose issue during practice, but the car is “not horrible by any means” and that they will make the necessary adjustments before the race. The green flag is scheduled for after 6 p.m. ET Sunday, with Suarez’s best finish at Darlington being 10th this spring.
“I feel like, right now, we’re probably a top-10 car, top-eight car,” he said. “Hopefully, with a couple of adjustments, we can make it a winner.”
By starting at the rear, the No. 99 will be last amongst the playoff cars on the grid, and by serving the pass-through penalty, likely to fall a lap down. Suarez starts his first playoffs seeded 13th.
“We should be fine,” he said. “It’s definitely not an ideal situation, but it is what it is. We have to bounce back. We definitely won’t let this bring us down.”
Suarez projected being anything but down about the situation.
“I think one of the worst things you can do to me is put pressure and to challenge me,” he said. “I’m going to bounce back.”