Coming into the 2019 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Daniel Suarez was feeling good about his 2020 plans and returning to Stewart-Haas Racing.
Friday morning (Nov. 15), he was officially jobless.
A message for my fans 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/GrnRGAmpFa
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) November 14, 2019
Suarez met with the media assembled in South Beach on Friday afternoon and still was in shock at the events that transpired in the 36 hours prior leaving him currently unemployed for 2020.
“I am a little disappointed,” he said. “A lot of people have worked very hard on this team to try to put everything together, and unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. We needed a few months. We had to find a big amount of money to keep the ride for next year. My group of people, friends and a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing went to work, and we actually did a pretty good job.”
Suarez was believed to have the funding required for another season, and he confirmed exactly that. However, the dollars weren’t all accounted for at this point in time, which wound up being the deciding factor.
“We pretty much got the goal, but unfortunately, part of the money wasn’t on the table at this point,” he said. “It was going to come a few months later and it wasn’t enough. It was a little unfortunate. It was a surprise. I was as shocked as you guys are probably right now, just a couple of nights ago. It is what it is. One door closes, another door opens.”
Suarez repeatedly spoke about the support co-owner Tony Stewart, as well as other organization executives, gave him throughout the process. But Gene Haas, Suarez says, was the deciding factor.
“I was 95% sure that we were in,” Suarez said. “I thought we were in good shape. I was extremely surprised. A lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing worked very hard to put everything together. It was disappointing to see that. Tony Stewart was pushing for me so hard. Brett Frood, a lot of people in Stewart-Haas Racing. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with (Gene) Haas.”
Stewart said as much earlier in the day, saying he wanted to find a way to “keep Daniel in our system and hopefully get him back in a car one day.” But Suarez wanted to make clear that the No. 41 program is (and has been) fully run by Gene Haas.
“Unfortunately, the [No.] 41 team, and especially the [No.] 41, he doesn’t have a lot that he can do with that car because the [No.] 41 is not his car,” Suarez said of Stewart. “He pushed. I am sure that he pushed as hard as he could, like a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing did. It just didn’t work out.”
This marks the second offseason in a row that the Monterrey, Mexico native and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion will be switching teams. Following the 2018 season at Joe Gibbs Racing, he joined SHR. Now he’s left in a familiar position, looking for work in NASCAR.
But this isn’t anything new for Suarez. He cited being a first-generation racer from Mexico and the countless sacrifices he’s made to be where he is today.
“I am pretty strong, he said. “I am here because of myself. This has been tough. It is not fun to be in this position. I feel like I am strong, and it has been a little difficult the last 24 hours.”
Suarez only has two top 10 results since the playoffs began. Although he didn’t make excuses for his admittedly lackluster performance in the last few weeks of the season, he cited the lack of focus on track due to the focus off of it attempting to secure sponsorship for his 2020 plans.
“The last few months, I have been focusing more outside the race car than inside the race car to make this happen,” he said. “Things actually happened. We were in good shape. It is very hard to just write a check and put it on somebody’s desk. It doesn’t work like that. It is impossible. They put the bar very high for me and my group to find money, but we did it. But just the timing wasn’t right.”
Still, though, Suarez said the decision was not results-based.
“I felt like we finally got everything clicking better the last month, month-and-a-half to be stronger,” he said. “Now, everything is coming apart. Honestly, I feel like that has been my Cup career so far. I have been in the Cup Series for [three] years but I haven’t had six months of consistency in my Cup career. I am sure I will catch a break at one point.”
“Several millions” were on the table already, according to Suarez, with the rest of the money set to come in a few months. SHR and Haas couldn’t wait and decided to name Custer their driver for next year.
So what’s next? Well, his goal of winning races and championships has already been achieved, albeit at the Xfinity Series level.
3 years ago we made history here in Homestead. Pole position, most laps lead, a race win, owner’s championship & driver’s championship. What a day. What a moment. Looking forward to getting more memories like these in the future in the Cup Series. pic.twitter.com/gCVKFL0WyS
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) November 15, 2019
Time will tell where he ends up.
“When I made a decision to move here to the U.S., it was very important for me to achieve my goal,” Suarez said. “I have to keep working hard and I guess I will eventually have to make that decision but for now I don’t know. I don’t know what I am going to do but for me it is a priority to be with a competitive team to be able to do what I know how to do.”
Suarez will pilot the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for one final time this Sunday, Nov. 17, in the Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBC.