Ford Performance NASCAR: Michigan 1 (Daniel Suarez & Michael McDowell Media Availability)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, June 7, 2019
EVENT: FireKeepers Casino 400 Media Availability
Daniel Suarez Media Availability

DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 41 Haas Automation Demo Day Ford Mustang: HOW DO YOU TRANSLATE YOUR GOOD PRACTICES INTO GOOD RACES? “I feel like we have been fast in practice. Our cars have been very fast. The problem that we have had in the last month is that we haven’t been able to race that way. We have fast cars, there is no doubt, we just have to be able to transfer that into the race and that means having a good car for traffic and having a good car in the draft and all those different situations. I feel like everyone has been working hard and making gains. It is always fun to be the fastest in practice but we know that isn’t the most important part. It shows we have speed but now we need to transfer that into the race. Hopefully we can do that this weekend.”

DO YOU FIND THAT YOU AS A GROUP AT SHR ARE STRUGGLING WITH SOME OF THE SAME THINGS? “I feel like it is more a group thing, it is not something that we are struggling just as a team in the 41 group. That is something I like a lot about Stewart-Haas Racing is that we are all in the same boat. We are working in the same direction. Once you see one of the Stewart-Haas cars winning races it means that all four cars are going to be very competitive. Right now I feel like we are working in the right direction so that we can be able to get some wins and trophies. That is the main goal.”

WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE IN THE DRAFT IN PRACTICE? “Everything is about the draft. You need to have a good car in the draft and you have to be able to drive well in the draft, to have good stability and be able to turn on exit of the corner. That is extremely important. I feel like qualifying, our cars have good raw speed which is good. I am actually pretty happy the way my car was driving in the draft, but it wasn’t great yet. We made some adjustments on it and we will see what we have for second practice.”

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WILL YOU NEED A PARTNER IN THE RACE? “Not just one, many. I personally think that this is going to be not quite like a superspeedway but maybe 70% or 60% like it. You are going to have to work together. If you have some partners around you and you want to make a move and you know they will follow, that will be good. If you don’t trust the guy behind you, they can spin you out. It is going to be exciting. I am excited about that.”

SO IS IT GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE IT IS ABOUT MANUFACTURERS WORKING TOGETHER? “I don’t think it is that drastic because here it is not like you can just pull and pass. You have to have a good enough car to do it. In speedway racing sometimes you see cars up front that you normally don’t. Here I don’t think that will happen. The good cars will be up front. To be up front you have to be around good strong cars that you can trust to be able to make moves. Let’s say I am running fifth and want to go to third. If I have two Chevy’s behind me I won’t make that move. I prefer to stay fifth than to go who knows where. If I have teammates behind me I will make that move and they will follow me and we will be able to make something happen. Those are the kind of decisions we will have to work on.”

WHAT IS YOUR CONTRACT SITUATION? “We are working on things. I feel very confident in where we are. We have options on both sides which is good. I have an option, they have an option, and I feel that is the best way to do things, especially when you have a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the year. We know where we are at and what we can do. We haven’t won races, that was my goal, but nobody has on the team. It isn’t like I am the only one not winning races like it was the last three years. It is a way different situation. I feel like when we move forward we move forward together. I don’t feel like I am the guy that is struggling of the group. I feel like we are going to be in good shape. I feel like I am in a good home with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance and everyone in this group. I am not really worried. I feel confident about it. But I will tell you that I felt confident about it as well last year and you saw what happened. You never know in this sport. I don’t like talking about it until it is 110% secure. The sport is at a point where anything can happen. What I can control is this weekend. I have to do my thing this weekend and try to win races. I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”

HOW MUCH DID YOU LEARN GOING THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE LAST YEAR? “I feel like last year was one of those life lessons for me. I am the kind of person that I just trust people a lot. I just trust people and that is just how I operate. Unfortunately, things ended up working out different. For me, I wasn’t worried at all because we were not signing the contract, for me what they were telling me was more than enough and then it ended up not working out that way. It was a lesson learned that way. I don’t come from a racing family or anything even close to that. I have been learning as I go and last year was a good lesson for myself.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE ACCLIMATED YOURSELF TO BEING A TEAMMATE AT SHR FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR TO NOW? “I think it has been very good. I feel like everyone has been extremely good to me and we work very good together. I have great teammates with Clint, Kevin and Aric. We have a great group and I am very happy to be part of it. I wish we were winning races, all four of us. We aren’t there yet. I know we are going to get there. That is something that I know. I know it is going to happen. We just have to be patient and keep working hard. We have had a lot of long meetings because I don’t like to race 15th. Kevin definitely doesn’t. Clint doesn’t’. Nobody does. We know what we can do. We all know that we can win races, all four of us. We just have to work hard and try to find that sweet spot that we have been missing a little bit in the last month.”

DO YOU FEEL CLOSER TO THAT POINT NOW THAN A FEW MONTHS AGO? “I will say that three months ago we were actually heading in the right direction. To be honest with you, in the last five weeks we maybe lost a little of that. In the last week or two we are going back again. We are learning. It is a new package, new car, there is a lot of stuff going on and we are learning as we go. The thing is that we are better than three months ago. The problem is that the competition is as well. Whoever is winning races right now aren’t just sitting still doing nothing and waiting for the competition to catch up. That isn’t how it works. You just have to work hard and try to make gains, sometimes not step-by-step but a few steps at a time.”

YOU SEEM MORE COMFORTABLE THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR. IS THAT FAIR? “Yeah, for sure. There is a lot of things that I can’t say and a lot of things I know that people don’t. I just have more confidence in what i’ve got. For whatever reason we struggled a lot last year. We had good races and pole positions and good runs but the problem is that one day I could show up to the race track with a winning car and the next day I couldn’t run 20th. It was extremely inconsistent for whatever reason, I don’t know why. I tried to figure it out but I couldn’t. This team has been working very good with me and I feel like I have a bright future ahead.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE ON THE RACE TRACK, DURING THE RACE RIGHT NOW, WHEN IT COMES TO LAP TRAFFIC THAT YOU ARE GETTING THE RESPECT THAT YOU SHOULD GET? “In today’s racing nobody gets respect. I don’t know if you have been watching the races but it is way different than two years ago. I was talking today and last night with Corey LaJoie and Ryan Blaney about it. When I came to the Cup Series in 2017 everyone was very polite. In the first part of the race is somebody was faster than me I would let the guy go. Right now, lap two, we are driving the — everything. The stages play a part in that but it is a small part of it. The biggest part is track position and the package. This package it is so hard to pass. You saw that in Pocono. We were crazy on restarts and after that it was very hard to pass. We can not give one position up because of that. It is funny, we were talking about it last night, I was talking about it this morning and now I am talking about it again. There are no more respect, polite drivers out there. If you are polite you won’t last.”

HOW DOES THAT MAKE THE RESTARTS? “Very aggressive. You have to make positions on them. You have to have that mentality. If you don’t make positions you will lose positions. I have had a lot of good race cars in the past where I am extremely good on the long run but on restarts I am not great and it takes me seven laps to finally get going with lower pressure and stuff. In today’s racing you can’t have that. You lose five spots on that restart and it is going to take you a full fuel run if you are lucky to get them back. It is one of those things where you have to be at least decent on restarts to be good on the long run.”

DO YOU HAVE TO BE MORE SELFISH TOO? YOU HAVE TO GO TAKE IT, YOU CAN’T WAIT AND BE PATIENT CAN YOU? “That is true. That is how it is. We talked about it last night and we were laughing about how everyone is a pain in the butt because nobody gives anyone a break and everyone is going very hard and it is fun. I like it. I like driving hard. I don’t have a problem with that. It is just a different style of racing now. Part of the reason is the stage points being extremely important but the big part is the track position. You don’t see guys starting in the back and going up to the front in a fuel run anymore. It is extremely difficult to do that.”

SO THIS WAS PART OF THE DINNER TABLE CONVERSATION WITH EDSEL LAST NIGHT? “Well, I am really good friends with Corey and Ryan and we were messing around and talking about it and we all agree that now we can’t be nice to each other. Even the slow cars at times are looking for a lucky dog and you are half a second quicker and you catch them and try to pass them and they don’t give you the spot sometimes.”

ISN’T IT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT THOUGH? ISN’T IT GOOD? IS THAT WHAT THEY INTENDED? “With the slow cars? Maybe we would expect a little more respect sometimes. I don’t want to talk in general because not all of them are like that. As a lead car, the guys running top-15, yeah that is how it is supposed to be. I don’t mind driving hard. That is what we get paid for.”

IS IT MAKING IT HARDER TO WALK THROUGH THE MOTORHOME LOT AT ANY GIVEN TIME? “I try to be good with everyone but on the race track it is a whole different deal. There are a lot of drivers like that. Joey Logano is a great friend of mine and we get along extremely well at the race track. When we are on the race track we are always banging and hitting and talking trash on the radio to the spotters stand and stuff like that. That is how it is and that is how I like it to be. I like to be aggressive. I like to put a line between the race track and the friendship off the race track.”

JOEY HAS SAID THAT EVERYONE IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT PERSON WHEN THEY GET OUT OF THE CAR: “It has to be that way. He does a good job of that. He is an extremely aggressive driver. I am the same way. Maybe some people will say that is sometimes too much but I prefer to be on the too much side and not the too little. We learn to deal with that. The main thing here is that the style of racing has changed in the last couple of years. For me it is fun. Out in the garage you have to put a very straight line to divide the race track and the friendship out of the race track.”

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING AGGRESSIVE YOU ARE SMILING THE WHOLE TIME. IT LIGHTS YOU UP! “Did you see when I was fighting in PHoenix I was smiling too. I have no problem with that. I have been in tougher situations, trust me.”

YOUR FORD DINNER LAST NIGHT, WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU? “It was very impressive. Extremely fun to be a part of this group and being able to know every single part of the house of Henry Ford that was built over 100 years ago and now have the opportunity to have that experience with Edsel Ford. It was an amazing experience. I feel very proud to be a part of the Ford Performance family. My grandpa used to be a huge Ford guy. All his cars were Ford. I am sure he was laughing from up there and he should be very proud of everything that is going on now with Ford Performance.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Melling Engine Parts Ford Mustang: THIS IS YOUR 300TH START THIS WEEKEND: “Yeah, I am not sure if the first 150 really count. I didn’t even really know it. It is something that you don’t really think about a lot but it is cool. It is cool to know that I have lasted this long in a sport that is hard to make it and still hanging on by the skin of my teeth. We can hopefully have a big weekend and get to victory lane.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE OUT THERE IN PRACTICE? “I am still not sure what to expect. We are going to be running together. I don’t think it will be packed racing like we all had hoped but I think that the group will stay tighter and there will be bigger groups. Still clean air matters. It is going to be interesting to see who can get their car working the best in traffic.”

WHAT WAS THE FORD DINNER LIKE LAST NIGHT? “It was neat to learn some of the history and see some of the history first hand. Obviously it is really cool to take in as a guest but it was fun to see Edsel’s passion for his family’s heritage and preserving that heritage. It was a really cool experience. Something you will never forget. Kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN YOU GET THAT MANY RACE CAR DRIVERS IN A ROOM TOGETHER WITH EDSEL FORD? “It was fun. Edsel had some fun stories to share and more about his family and the history and things like that as we took a tour through the home but yeah, when you’ve got Bowyer and guys like that, there will always be some entertainment. It was fun. It was a neat get together.”

WE ARE ALMOST TO THE MIDWAY POINT OF THE YEAR. HOW DO YOU ASSESS THE SEASON AND IS THERE ONE OR TWO THINGS YOU MOST WANT TO IMPROVE FOR THE SECOND HALF? “I think we have struggled more than we all had hoped with this new package. The takeaway is that we have had some good moments and moments of speed. That is good to build on but we haven’t had that consistently. That is what we have to work on. We need to work on going from track to track and having that speed. We have been a little hit or miss on that. That is one thing we have to work on. We know the potential is there in our cars but we don’t get it every weekend.”

SONOMA NEXT WEEK WILL HAVE THE CAROUSEL, WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE? “It will be awesome. I grew up racing at Sonoma on the full course so I am really excited to go back there and get to do that. It makes it a new challenge and fun to kind of mix it up and hopefully Watkins Glen will follow suit and run the boot here soon. It will bring some new challenges and we will work through some new setups and gearing and all those things that change when the course layout changes. Hopefully that will be helpful for us. I am really excited. All the road courses are good races for us. It is about maximizing the opportunity.”

HOW HELPFUL IS THE SIMULATOR AT THE FORD TECH CENTER FOR A CHANGE LIKE THAT? “I have been on it the last two weeks running through a lot of those things and going through development and I am fortunate to get to do that. Not just with Front Row but also with Roush and also for Ford Performance on the development side of it. I don’t think there will be many people with more seat time than me going to Sonoma. It is fun and I really enjoy it. It is something I enjoy doing. I hope that is an advantage as well.”

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