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Joe Gibbs: Daniel Suarez "is everything you could want as a driver"

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Joe Gibbs: Daniel Suarez "is everything you could want as a driver"
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Nov 25, 2017, 11:11 PM

A year ago at this time, Daniel Suarez was fresh off his NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and preparing to tackle another season in the series, perhaps even make a few starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pit stop
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

That would have been challenging enough but little did Suarez – or anyone else for that matter – know what was coming.

The unexpected retirement in the offseason of his JGR teammate, Carl Edwards, prompted a shakeup in JGR’s Cup lineup, which resulted in the immediate promotion of Suarez to Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota team.

The move was sooner than JGR planned for Suarez, who became the first Mexican-born driver to compete full-time in NASCAR’s premier series.

There were growing pains in his adjustment to Cup and then he almost had to start over when his crew chief with which he began the year, Dave Rodgers, took an indefinite leave of absence in late March.

Suarez, 25, weathered the storm, ending the year 20th in the series standings with one top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. His career best finish of third came at the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y.

“If you take a look, there were 12 races during the season where he averaged a seventh-place finish and he got in about three wrecks where he likely would have also finished in the top-10,” JGR team owner Joe Gibbs told Motorsport.com.

“What has slipped through the cracks was that he was basically thrown into this. We were going to run one more year in Xfinity. We were going to give him another year, another year to mature and then we just threw him in there.

“Then with everything that happened with his crew chief and everything, it sure wasn’t a typical rookie year.”

Coach's observations

Gibbs said two things stuck out this season about Suarez’s adjustment to the Cup series – he doesn’t wreck and he typically runs better in the second half of a race than the first, showing the ability to learn on-the-job.

“He may be running 15 to 17th and then as the race gets to the end it’s ‘Oh my gosh’ and he’s running in the Top 10. It’s very similar to how Matt (Kenseth) drives. He has sort of a formula to it,” Gibbs said.

“He’s as motivated to get better as anybody at our organization. His car is at the complex almost every day, whether he’s lifting weights to meeting with his crew chief. He is everything you could want as a driver and as far as the sponsors go, they love him.

“This sport is very different. You have to be able to deal with sponsors, entertain people. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s just a great guy.”

Gibbs is looking forward to the 2018 season for Suarez, not just based on his 2017 results but also but having the opportunity to into the season without a lot of last-minute upheaval.

“I think he and Scott (Graves, crew chief) are poised to do great things,” Gibbs said. “They’ve hit it off and I think they are ready to win a race.”

 

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Daniel Suarez
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Author Jim Utter