AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) Daniel Suarez has driven a NASCAR Xfinity Series car to a championship and a rookie of the year award.
His first turn in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car was a lesson in power.
”It was quite a bit different,” Suarez said. ”There is more power in the Cup car, it is fast in the straightaway and slow in the middle of the corner. All of these people are truly professionals and they do everything right. I feel like it was a positive day and we learned some good things.”
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Su�rez drove at Phoenix International Raceway for his first test run in a Cup Series car on Tuesday, joining a group that included Dale Earnhardt Jr, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, who has won six of the previous nine races at Phoenix. Earnhardt was back after missing the second half of the 2016 season due to concussion-like symptoms.
Su�rez held his own with the big names as he began his stint as the replacement for Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. Following the two-day test at PIR, his Cup career will begin with 75-lap race for the Clash of Daytona on Feb. 18, followed by the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.
Su�rez started his racing career in 2002 in Mexico, earning a karting championship within five years and participating in two NASCAR races in Mexico at the age of 17. He won the 2010 NASCAR Mexico Series Rookie of the Year, and the next year was the youngest driver to win a pole in the NASCAR Mexico Series Pilot.
Su�rez joined Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2011 and ended up winning Rookie of the Year. After capturing an Xfinity championship, Gibbs promoted him to the Cup Series in 2017 following Edwards’ unexpected departure.
”I for sure wasn’t expecting that call,” he said. ”I was with my family and friends just enjoying the championship that took a lot of work. Obviously, my offseason was a little short because as soon as I received the call, I started to think about the Cup Series. I definitely cannot complain.”
Su�rez became NASCAR’s first foreign-born National Premiere Touring Series champion when he walked away with the 2016 Xfinity Series Cup. Between the NASCAR Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Su�rez has nine wins.
He got a boost for his first test run; Edwards was there to guide and help him.
”For me, Carl Edwards is one of the best drivers out there, not just in Phoenix, but at every single race track,” Su�rez said. ”He has offered to help me, and I really didn’t have to think twice to say `yes.’ He gave me a lot of important advice today.”
The 25-year old native of Monterey, Mexico, had three career Xfinity wins (Michigan, Dover and Homestead). He also had previous experience at PIR, winning a Trucks race in November.
The up and coming Cup Series season will mark the first time Suarez and crew chief Dave Rogers will be working together. It’s also is the first time Rogers will be working with a rookie.
A second day of testing at PIR comes on Wednesday.
”Today, everything was all about trying to get used to the car,” said Su�rez. ”For tomorrow, we have to push the lines a little bit more on trying to find more speed and a better balance.”