Daniel Suarez is the newest edition to the Monster Energy Cup Series driver lineup for 2017 following Carl Edwards’ surprise departure.
During his first NASCAR Media Tour as a Cup driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, Suarez talked about preparing for his first season, his relationship with crew chief Dave Rogers, advice from Kyle Busch and representing Latin America.
Suarez has less than a month to make final preparations for his first season in Cup. He talked about the process since getting the call to move up earlier this month:
“There has been a lot going on. It's been pretty cool to see the way they (the team) work because it's quite a bit different than an XFINITY team,” said Suarez. “It's been different to learn new things. It’s been a lot to learn everything as quickly as possible. I know there's a long ways to go. We still have some time before Daytona. We are still working on some things I have to learn. Hopefully we can do it in the right way.”
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Dave Rogers, Edwards’ crew chief in 2016, will be atop the pit box for Suarez in 2017.
A driver-crew chief relationship one of many keys to success in the Cup Series, and Suarez is well aware of that. According to the 2016 XFINITY Series champ, there have already been great strides made in their relationship.
“Dave is an amazing crew chief and he's an amazing person, as well,” said Suarez. “I'm getting to know him more and more as a crew chief, and as a person. It's been very fun to get along with him more and the entire No. 19 group.
Rogers has also followed Suarez well before his quick success in NASCAR.
“He mentioned to me that he has watched me ever since the first time I got into an ARCA car, and then to an XFINITY car,” Suarez added. “He was very proud of what I did last year, not just for the speed, but also for the maturity I show on the racetrack. He's super excited. We are going to go out there with a rookie driver and be successful, as quick as possible and try to win races. That's exactly what we're going to try to do.”
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Close relationship with Kyle Busch
During the first day of NASCAR Media Tour Monday, Kyle Busch gave his best Daniel Suarez, it is was pretty spot on.
But, Suarez shied away from giving his best version of the 2015 Cup champion.
“That's a good one. If I tried to do his accent, you guys won't be able to understand me,” Suarez said jokingly. “I try to talk like he talks to me sometimes and I feel like he's super fast, so I can't understand the words that he's saying to me. But, I guess he's the same way with me. He can't understand the words I try to say to him.”
All joking aside, Suarez spent a lengthy amount of time discussing just how crucial Busch has been in his NASCAR career.
“Honestly, Kyle has been nothing but great to me,” Suarez added. “Like he mentioned yesterday (Tuesday), I used to, and sometimes still do, bother him every single week to ask him for help and ask him for advice. That showed on the racetrack right away. I'm very proud to call him my friend now and to have that confidence to go up and ask him a question, and I'm sure he'll answer that question in the right way. He's been a huge part of my career in the national series to be here sitting with you guys right now.”
Although Suarez and Busch will now be fierce competitors in Cup, he doesn’t foresee their relationship changing.
“Kyle and I would race each other in the NASCAR XFINITY Series a lot and he was super helpful and gave me a lot of advice,” Suarez said. “I don't really know how that's going to change in the Cup Series yet. I'm sure we're going to be sharing a lot of information. I'm still going to ask him a lot of questions. Things are going to be fun.”
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Leaning on veteran teammates
Nobody makes his or her way to the top without a little help along the way. But the key is not being afraid to ask questions and learn as much as possible.
That’s exactly what Suarez has done to reach the Cup level, relying on Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and others for advice. He said that’s not going to change.
“I'm the same person. I'm the same Daniel Suarez as a couple years ago. I'm not shy to go out there and ask questions to veteran drivers,” Suarez said. “Hopefully I can get the right answers to be a better person and a better driver. Kyle has been super helpful. Kyle has actually been the most helpful, but the entire Joe Gibbs Racing family -- Matt Kenseth, he's been helpful, Carl Edwards has been super helpful, not just on the race track, but off the race track, as well. Denny Hamlin at Darlington -- he helped me out a lot. Every single driver has been great to me. I'm looking forward to being teammates to them at the Cup level.”
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Joining rookie class
Suarez is part of an incredibly talented 2017 Rookie of the Year class, joining Erik Jones and Ty Dillon.
Add that to the list of many reasons Suarez is excited to get the season started.
“I think it's going to be very cool,” Suarez said. “We know each other very well and we've raced together in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. We know each other very well and get along really well. For me, something that is very cool is to see how these group of drivers -- we've been making our way up, now to the Cup level. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we can get it started in the right way in the Daytona 500.”
Bringing new fans to NASCAR
The move for Suarez to Cup is great for NASCAR’s effort to bring in the most diverse fan base possible.
The rookie driver is honored to represent not just the Mexican community, but also the entire Latin American community as a whole.
“For me, it's great to be a role model for so many future new drivers and fans here in the United States, as well as Latin American fans,” said Suarez. “I don't want to say Mexican fans because in the last few months, I've seen people from the entire Latin American community follow this sport and following me in my racing career. It's been a lot of fun going through this journey. I'm really looking forward to the future. This is just going to get better and better. I'm super excited to be in this position. I feel very lucky to be the driver to represent this community."