When Furniture Row Racing ceased operations last year and 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. needed a new team, other drivers knew Truex could possible replace them. Daniel Suarez didn’t think he would be one of those that would have to worry about his job.
So it came as quite a shock when Joe Gibbs Racing announced Truex was taking Suarez’s spot, a position he had held for two years. Fortunately the 27-year-old didn’t have to wait long. Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was picking up Suarez.
“I was nervous about what was going to happen,” Suarez said at a Monday press conference. “But today I’m very grateful. It’s not easy to go from a very good team to another very, very good team. That’s exactly what just happened to myself.”
Not Bitter About Firing
Suarez could have been resentful about being replaced on the NASCAR circuit after just two years. He had been with JGR for four years, his first two on the Infinity Series. He was the champion in 2016, then got a surprise just before the 2017 season.
Five weeks before the start of the NASCAR season iconic driver Carl Edwards announced his retirement. It caught many off guard and necessitated Suarez’s promotion a year earlier than planned.
The only full-time Mexican driver in NASCAR performed admirably his first year. He had 12 top 10 finishes and finished 20th in the points standing. Last year he had nine top 10 finishes and was 21st in the Cup standings.
But when Truex became a free agent, JGR wasted no time luring him to the team, leaving Suarez without a ride and fighting feelings of betrayal.
“It’s hard to answer that question [about his feelings] with the truth because the reality is that this is a business and it is very hard to have hard feelings,” Suarez said. “At the same time, it’s very hard not to take it personal because it is my life in the middle of all this.”
With Suarez’s results not near what both he and owners of JGR expected, the decision to part ways was not totally shocking.
“Last year, unfortunately, I didn’t meet my expectations, not even close,” Suarez said. “There was something missing somewhere. I couldn’t find it and they couldn’t find it.”
Suarez believes it all worked out for the best and is very happy with his new team. There is definitely a learning curve going to a new organization.
“Somebody asked me what is different from last year to this year. For me, it’s everything,” Suarez said. “The rules package, the team, the race car, everything, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a little challenge to adapt to everything, but I feel like it’s going to be something that’s good for me.”
He and new crew chief Billy Scott, who worked with Kurt Busch last year, were able to get acquainted this Wednesday and Thursday when they participated at a Goodyear tire test at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
“So far, everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing has made me feel like home,” Suarez said. “We’re going to have our first test at a race track later this week, so I feel like a lot of good things are happening so we can perform well on and off of the race track.”