Test Was Time Well-Spent for Suarez
By: Tyler Burnett - @_TylerBurnett on February 8, 2017 | 4:51 P.M. EST
NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate Daniel Suarez (right) says last week’s test at Phoenix Raceway was pivotal in preparation for this month's Daytona 500, with Carl Edwards on hand to provide support. (Photo: Getty Image)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate Daniel Suarez says last week’s test at Phoenix Raceway was pivotal in preparation for this month's Daytona 500.
"I couldn’t see myself going to the Daytona 500 without having that test in Phoenix and getting seat time in a car I’ve never been in," Suarez told Motor Racing Network in a phone interview while he was in Atlanta promoting the new season. "The team is doing a great job making this transition (from Carl Edwards) as smooth as possible."
The opportunity to attend the NASCAR test in Phoenix came on short notice for the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Originally, Matt Kenseth was scheduled to be JGR's representatives until the unexpected departure of Carl Edwards forced Suarez into the "19."
"Carl was there and helped me a lot throughout the first day. It helps that he's really good at Phoenix," Suarez said.
At the request of his former crew chief, Dave Rogers, Edwards was on hand for the first day of the test to assist Suarez on how to drive the new car. He was on the headset coaching him through the corners and giving him tips on how to attack the track.
"He was telling me a little bit about the cars," Suarez said, "when things are normal in the car, telling me not to worry about some of the little mistakes I made and he gave me advice just like any veteran would to someone who is in a brand new car."
It didn’t take long for Suarez to adjust to the feel of a new car. After multiple practice runs on the morning of Day 1, he was starting to feel comfortable by the afternoon and by the final day of the test, things felt normal.
"It feels like you have a lot less grip because we have a lot less downforce," Suarez said, "but you can feel that it has a lot more power. It’s a big difference but like anything else, as a racecar driver you try to go as fast as possible every single lap. After a couple hours, I was getting used to the car and after the second day, it felt like a car I've driven a long time."
Suarez’s first test of the 2017 season will come in exhibition form in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18. He was given a spot in the season-opening special event and hopes to make the most of his opportunity by getting some valuable lessons ahead of the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.
"The draft is everything," Suarez said. "We have to keep learning about this new car and trying to learn about the competition, as well. We need to be smart, and try and finish all of the races we can in Daytona because when we're on the track, we're learning."