In the Driver’s Seat with Daniel Suarez

Above all, Daniel Suarez feels confident about his team's chances to win races. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Above all, Daniel Suarez feels confident about his team’s chances to win races. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

All things considered, Daniel Suarez has acquitted himself nicely with his progress to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  Arguably, the 26-year-old’s focus towards success not only presides in his No. 19 Stanley Tools/ARRIS Toyota Camry.

In fact, Suarez’s focus is on adjusting to the lifestyle and culture from Mexico to the United States.  Naturally, the native of Monterrey, Mexico adjusted to the culture of NASCAR with the drive and determination found in his Cup efforts.

How razor focused is Suarez?  Unsurprisingly, the only thing on this young racer’s mind was the AAA 400 Drive for Autism weekend at Dover, DE.

Certainly, in contrast to my prior interview with the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, this conversation stayed mainly on track.  There’s a sense of confidence, determination, and growth in Suarez’s tone versus our one-on-one dialogue just two years ago.

Still, Suarez provided great insights into his outlook with the year, his journey in NASCAR, and racing at Dover.  Like most conditioned athletes, this sophomore racer thrives with battling challenging elements.  No doubt, “The Monster Mile” fits the bill as one of the toughest circuits in all of stock car racing.

Overall, the biggest takeaway from Suarez in this latest interview is his drive to be the best driver possible in the premier series.  Consider that this talented racer finished sixth and eighth in last year’s races at Dover and he could be a solid dark horse pick for this weekend.

For now, let’s get to business and get “In the Driver’s Seat with Daniel Suarez” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson :  You’ve been making some good progress since the year kicked off at Daytona with three top-10’s.  How would you evaluate your start this year and what’s been some of the encouraging things you’ve seen from your No. 19 team?

Daniel Suarez :  Well, it definitely wasn’t exactly the beginning of the season that I was expecting.  My team and myself were working very hard to try to pull our team together and try to move in the right direction.  Definitely, as you mentioned, in the past month, it’s been much better and more consistent.

The speed has been there pretty much the entire year.  It’s just been the consistency that’s been the problem and just putting ourselves in a good position.  I feel like we’ve been doing that better in the last few weeks and now heading to Dover, which is a very good place for me, hopefully, we can keep that up.

RT :  Dover’s been one of your strongest tracks, with a NASCAR XFINITY Series win in the fall of 2016 and two top-10’s in the Cup car last year.  What’s been your keys to success at this track and are there similarities with this track with Bristol?

By and large, Suarez thrives at the tough Dover International Speedway.

By and large, Suarez thrives at the tough Dover International Speedway.

DS :  I think Dover’s one of those places that I just feel comfortable.  I feel like I’ve been comfortable at this place in the very beginning and I just like it.  Actually, you just called it right there.  It’s very similar to Bristol but just bigger.  The driving style that you need to have is similar.  It’s a lot of fun.  I love racing at Bristol and I love racing at Dover.  I feel like the racetracks are tough physically and mentally and I really like that.

RT :  With this track being a part of the playoff schedule, even though you race here also in the spring, how much of the notes from this weekend’s race can you carryover to the fall?

DS :  There’s a lot of information that you can carry for the next one.  Talking about the playoffs, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction and we have good information from here in the past.  Hopefully, we can keep building our numbers and moving in the right direction.

RT :  As one of the relatively newer drivers in the Cup series, how important is it for you and your peers in the circuit to reach out to new audiences of NASCAR, be it fans at the track or on a social media outlet like Twitter?

Suarez signs a fan's program during the Pennzoil 400 race weekend at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Suarez signs a fan’s program during the Pennzoil 400 race weekend at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

DS :  It is very important.  I feel like with these generations, each one is very important to you, as a driver, and to your fans, and a lot of people who follow the sport.  That’s something I actually enjoy doing.  Right now, in these days, especially as you mentioned with social media, it’s very important and a lot of people interact that way.

RT :  I like that you do those brief video post-race recaps on Twitter.  Was that something you thought about to bring fans closer to the action on the racetrack?

DS :  Yea, for sure.  We just work hard to try to have good interaction and to give the fans a good experience not only at the racetrack but as well as outside of the racetrack.  The teams, NASCAR, and a lot of people are working on that.

RT :  With new drivers like you battling alongside veterans like Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, would you say NASCAR’s just as competitive and tough as ever, especially in a situation where you’re battling for a top-five position during a race?

Moreover, Suarez enjoys his journey through the ranks of NASCAR.

Moreover, Suarez enjoys his journey through the ranks of NASCAR.

DS :  Yea, I mean, the experienced drivers are very hard to beat.  They have a lot of years of experience and know exactly what they are doing.  The young drivers are definitely doing a good job learning from them and trying to make progress, and I count myself as one of them.  I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.  It takes time to be competitive in the Cup series, but so far, I feel like it’s been good so we’re looking forward to keep moving.

RT :  You’ve raced your way up the ladder of NASCAR to earn your opportunity in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry.  Having raced in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series through the top three national series, what’s your take on your evolution or progress as one of the top racers in this sport?

DS :  It’s been a lot of fun.  Knowing and living through that progress, how things have changed in my career and in my life, like for me here in the United States but as well as in Mexico, two different countries and two different cultures and two different styles of racing, it’s been a lot of fun to live that and I’m looking forward to keep on doing this.

RT :  Joe Gibbs Racing’s got a unique situation in that you have two veteran teammates in Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch alongside Erik Jones.  What’s it like to work with these different personalities and who would you say you’ve learned the most from with becoming successful in racing?

DS :  I feel like all of us work well together on the track.  I feel like it’s a pretty good combination to have two drivers with the experience and two drivers with less experience because we can bring something new to the table and new ideas and they can bring the most important part, which is experience, but it’s a been a lot of fun to work with these guys and learn from these guys.

RT :  I saw that you’ll be on a reality show called “The Riveras” on Universo this Sunday night.  How was that experience like in showing Jacquelin and Mike a part of what you go through during the race weekend?

DS :  Yea, I’m definitely looking forward to that.  But to be honest, my mind is on Dover. (chuckles) I haven’t thought about it.

RT :  If you had the chance to go back in time to give your younger self advice with life or with racing, what would you tell yourself?

Regardless of the task at hand, Suarez works diligently towards excellence. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow/TPF)

Regardless of the task at hand, Suarez works diligently towards excellence. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow/TPF)

DS :  I guess to be a little more patient and to understand more about the racecars.  The culture in Mexico is a little bit different than here but I just would do a couple of different things to learn about the United States a little quicker but there’s nothing we can do now.  We’ve got what we’ve got but we’ve been good.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Daniel and Joe Gibbs Racing for their time with making this feature possible.  Photos, whereas noted, are courtesy of Jose L. Acero Jr and Zach Darrow of The Podium Finish.  To learn more about Daniel, “Follow” him on Twitter, “Like” his Facebook page, and “Visit” his official website today!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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