Race Weekend Central

Daniel Suarez Talks Breaking Through in NASCAR, Championship Hopes

Competing for wins and a championship is difficult in any series. Trying to do the same when you’re teammates with the greatest driver in series history and one of the few drivers that proved they can beat him? That sounds borderline impossible.

Yet such is the situation Daniel Suarez finds himself in during the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series tour, as he tries to outdo Kyle Busch for race wins and outlast Erik Jones for the series championship.

Coming from Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez is one of the most unique personalities in the paddock. From outside he’s the first Latin American to lead the NXS standings, offering responses to media questions in both English and Spanish. On the inside, Suarez is one of the nicest drivers in the paddock, praising his team while eyeing a title in NASCAR’s second series.

Frontstretch spoke with Suarez at Talladega Superspeedway to discuss his improvement, the dynamics of competing for one of NASCAR’s best teams and what it’s like to represent Mexico on one of the largest stages in motorsport.

Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch: How much improvement have you been able to see in your results compared to last season?

Daniel Suarez: Well… I think everything is a team effort. The whole team is doing an amazing job – we have fast racecars. I think I’m doing my part as well. We have the right tools to be competitive, and that’s very important. They’re giving me great racecars and making me look good on the racetrack, and that’s been really good.

I think we have a competitive race team and a very strong program right now. All we need to do right now is try to win races. We’ve done everything right so far, we just need to keep making it happen and close the deal.

Bearden: How important is it to get a win or two before the first XFINITY Series Chase?

Suarez: It’s important for the Chase. It’s important for us to gain more confidence and know that we can win. I think the Chase is going to take care of itself. Wins are more for ourselves, to gain that confidence and know we can win when it counts.

Bearden: While NASCAR has welcomed diversity throughout the years, few minority drivers have risen to the stature that you hold right now. Is that something you take seriously, or is it just another part of things?

Suarez: It’s definitely something good. I think it’s something good that came with a lot of work and a lot of effort from the whole JGR organization. For me, it’s very cool to be a Latin American driver, to be able to represent a lot of different people here in the U.S. It isn’t lost on me.

Bearden: Being a part of both Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, you’re surrounded by a lot of talent. How do you balance the two organizations?

Suarez: I think it’s an overall thing, but my main team is Joe Gibbs Racing. I race with Kyle Busch Motorsports part-time, and I have a lot of fun and have learned a lot doing that, but my main team is JGR, and my main goal is working with that team and looking towards the future as well.

Bearden: You’re in a great battle with your own teammate Erik Jones this season. What do you think it’s going to take to beat your teammate down the stretch?

Suarez: I think the speed is there. Both programs are really fast. I think that at the No. 20 team, Erik is doing an amazing job. They have confidence that they know how to win races. I think displaying that same confidence on a weekly basis will be enough to get us there.

Bearden: Having been through a year on the tour, are there certain tracks that you circle as favorites or ones at which you believe you excel?

Suarez: There are a lot of racetracks that I really like. Indianapolis (Motor Speedway) is a good one for me. Bristol (Motor Speedway) is a very good one for me, too. I have a lot of racetracks that I think adapt to my driving style.

Bearden: With the succession rate at JGR and KBM, you already find yourself in a bit of a leadership role with drivers like Matt Tifft and Christopher Bell coming in. Have you found yourself advising any of the new drivers?

Suarez: Honestly, I haven’t thought much about that. For now I’m just trying to do my thing and win races. I think that’s the most important thing for us right now. After that maybe I can offer a bit more advice to the newer guys. But for right now, it’s all about my team and myself.

Bearden: I assume the end goal for you is probably competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but the roster at JGR is stacked right now. Do you see any potential to step up to that level soon, or is that goal going to take a while to reach?

Suarez: I don’t know when, but I think it’s going to happen. I’m in the right place right now when they make that decision, but for now all I can do is try to go win a title in the XFINITY Series.

Bearden: You’re one of the top title contenders at this stage. What would a championship mean to you, JGR and even Mexico? 

Suarez: It would be really cool, definitely something neat for the entire team, myself and everyone else that offers me support. I think we have a great possibility of winning it, we just have to keep working, keep doing what we’re doing right now. We have everything it takes on this race team.

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