Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – What’s the greatest challenge for driver Daniel Suarez as he transitions from one powerhouse team to another?
Avoiding gluttony—in a figurative sense, of course.
Suarez knows he needs to exercise patience as he learns the ropes at Stewart-Haas Racing after a spotty two years with Joe Gibbs Racing. But Suarez also acknowledges that patience runs contrary to his nature.
“We have to be patient,” Suarez said on Wednesday during a Daytona 500 media day question-and-answer session with reporters at Daytona International Speedway. “Sometimes when you’re hungry, and you see all this food in front of you, you want to go ahead and eat the whole thing.
“But you have to take the time, do things right, walk and then run. I want to run and then run again.”
Though he’s eager to learn and ready to use all the resources at his disposal, Suarez is fighting the urge to expect too much too soon from his move to Stewart-Haas after a season of inconsistency and bewilderment at JGR.
At Pocono in July, Suarez won his first career pole and finished second to teammate Kyle Busch in the race. He ran third at Dover in May and fourth at Watkins Glen. But those were Suarez’s only three top fives in a season that produced an average starting spot of 17.4, an average finish of 18.5 and 21st place in the final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Across the board, those statistics were inferior to the numbers Suarez posted during his 2017 rookie season, and the driver from Monterrey, Mexico, was at a loss to understand why.
“I feel like something was missing, and I don’t know what it was,” Suarez said. “I’m not the best driver when it comes to patience, and I was always pushing things and trying to figure out things and find out what was that part I was missing.
“I couldn’t find it, and they couldn’t find it either, and we decided to part ways. Honestly, maybe six months ago I was pretty disappointed and pretty down on things, but today I can say it was the best thing that could’ve happen to me.”
Suarez has found simpatico with another Joe Gibbs Racing alumnus who happens to be his car owner. In 2008, Tony Stewart announced he was leaving JGR to partner as an owner/driver with Gene Haas in a team renamed Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart won the last of his three Cup championships with SHR in 2011, beating Carl Edwards for the title on a tiebreaker.
“One thing that I think is extremely important is how involved Tony Stewart is in the racing,” Suarez said. “I have had a good relationship with Tony in the past, but now I’m getting to talk with him more and getting to learn from him more, and it’s extremely good.
“He’s a driver. He’s not just a team owner. He’s a driver who happens to be a team owner, and that’s something I feel is a plus, because he understands the position of a driver. He knows what the race car is lacking… I see Stewart-Haas as a big organization with a bunch of real racers involved, which is very good.”