Daniel Suarez may only be in his second full season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, but he’s turned a lot of heads in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Suarez outdueled Kyle Busch to win his first XFINITY Series race at Michigan International Speedway back in June and has earned a series-high 18 top-5 finishes and 26 top 10s in 32 starts, with two wins (Michigan this summer and Dover last month).
However, regardless of what happens on Saturday, the youngster from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, has already achieved his primary objective for the 2017 season.
“The goal of it all was to be in this position, so it’s very cool to see how hard work this year has been paying off,” Suarez said on Thursday during the Championship 4 Media Day in Miami Beach, Fla. “I feel like we have had a pretty strong season so far. A lot of learning still, but it’s been a pretty successful season winning races, being competitive and racing at the front most of the time. That’s something really good that I feel like my entire team has been doing an awesome job.”
Of course, being part of Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the dominant teams in NASCAR is a big help to any driver. On Friday, team owner Joe Gibbs stated during a press conference that Busch and Carl Edwards will not be sharing information ahead of Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400. (Busch and Edwards later denied the claim). Gibbs’ point Friday was that titles are won by the individual, not the team.
However, that tightening of the reins doesn’t appear to be in play for Suarez. He has received advice from his more senior teammates at JGR all season and will continue to get that this weekend.
“Today is a little relaxed day for [Busch and Edwards], so I will talk to them,” Suarez said Thursday. “I have a very good relationship with both of them, and I’m sure that as soon as I call them, they’re going to answer the phone and answer every question that I have for them. I know that they’ve been crazy, and I know how it feels you being crazy and somebody asking you questions. But that’s part of racing. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we all enjoy it.”
Prior to this season, Suarez had competed in 35 XFINITY races for Joe Gibbs Racing. In that time, Suarez had eight top-5 and 18 top-10 finishes (all last season). Compared to his JGR teammates, Suarez struggled at first as he adjusted from the K&N Pro Series car that he was familiar with to the XFINITY Series. However, as the 2015 season continued on, Suarez showed steady improvement.
By July, Suarez was consistently posting top-10 finishes as confidence rose in his abilities. He ended the 2015 season with five consecutive top-10 finishes, a streak that stretched to 10 races with the first five events of this season.
Currently, Suarez is currently on a streak of seven consecutive top-5 finishes and 10 consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to Road America in August. As a result, he has scored more points than any other driver in the first seven races of the Chase.
Suarez is cognizant of that momentum and believes it permeates his whole team.
“The [No.] 19 group in the XFINITY Series is just unbelievable, the work that they have done the entire Chase,” Suarez said. “A lot of top 5s. If it’s not just top 5s, the entire Chase format, just unbelievable the momentum that we have. I feel like we are just the best team consistency-wise, momentum-wise right now. Hopefully we can keep that up for this weekend.”
Suarez will likely need to put up another one of those top-5 runs in order to bring home the XFINITY Series championship on Saturday. He has the confidence and the support to get the job done.
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