Daniel Suárez is looking forward to the next step in his career as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Suárez won the 2016 Xfinity Series championship and ran in the last two seasons in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, when JGR affiliate Furniture Row Racing was forced to close its doors due to sponsorship issues sending Martin Truex Jr. to the No. 19 Toyota, Suárez was suddenly without a ride.
Enter the SHR organization which found itself with an open seat in the wake of Kurt Busch’s departure to Chip Ganassi Racing and Suárez has a new opportunity beginning this season.
“This is definitely a huge opportunity, Suárez said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity that I believe happens once in a lifetime. To have the opportunity to join a top caliber organization like Stewart-Haas Racing with great bosses, Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, and get an opportunity to work with great teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola is gonna be a lot of fun to learn from these guys and learn together and hopefully put the new Ford Mustangs up front just like everyone did last year at Stewart-Haas Racing.”
As is the case when any driver moves from one organization to another there will be a learning curve for Suárez as he adapts to his new surroundings. But the 27-year-old driver is well aware of that challenge as well as the many others that will undoubtedly arise during the transition.
But Suárez believes it will all be for the better in terms of performance and the progression of his career, which stalled last year at JGR.
“I have been talking with Stewart-Haas Racing for a while now,” Suárez said. “It’s been a process to get into this great organization. It’s been different from the way I’ve been working in comparison to where I came from and just to try to adapt as much as possible to the way that (crew chief) Billy Scott and the engineers work. I’m still learning many different things.
“I haven’t been in the race car at all or the simulator at all, but that is gonna change this week. I guess now that the news is official, it’s gonna be way easier to work and I won’t have to be hiding every time I go to the shop, so I feel like it’s gonna be even more comfortable. I’m happy that this day finally came and we’re able to enjoy the day a little bit and then go back to work.”
Adding to the work Suárez will face in his new role will be changing from Toyota to Ford as that manufacturer moves from the Fusion to the Mustang in 2019. Oh and for good measure there is also a dramatic Cup Series rules package featuring major engine horsepower reductions and aerodynamic modifications.
But Suárez says it’s all part of the process.
“I think it’s gonna be something different,” he said of the new rules. “The closest package that we have had in the past to the new 2019 package is the All-Star Race from last year. In that race I was able to do good things.
“We finished second with a good opportunity to win the race. The 4 car with Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing won the race, so I feel very good about it. Hopefully, we can continue the success that we had in that race and learn as quick as possible from this package to be successful at the race track.”
Overall the whole situation is one Suárez is embracing as a chance to hit the rest button.
“There is a lot of different things for me this year,” Suárez said. “Somebody asked me what is different from last year to this year. For me, it’s everything. The rule package, the team, the race car, everything, so I’m excited. It’s gonna be a little challenge to adapt to everything, but I feel like it’s gonna be something that’s good for me.
“It’s some new fresh air for myself and it’s gonna be good to be able to have a good opportunity with a team like Stewart-Haas Racing and go out there and do what I have to do, which is drive fast and drive race cars. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Hear from Suárez on Tuesday night’s “NASCAR Live” hosted by Mike Bagley at 7 p.m. ET with live streaming at MRN.com.