Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday that Daniel Suarez, K&N East and Mexico Toyota Series (MTS) competitor, will make his debut in the No. 20 Toyota at Richmond International Raceway this weekend.
“I think it will be a good weekend for us,” Suarez explained during the press conference held this afternoon. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’m very excited. I’m excited to be, you know, (with) strong teams in every single series.”
Suarez, who has already captured four wins in both the K&N East and MTS this season alone, is apart of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which ensures that international drivers still receive opportunities that American competitors are guaranteed. He also was inducted into the NASCAR NEXT class last season, and is likely to be re-elected at Richmond this weekend.
This weekend, Suarez will compete in the BlueOx 100 and the ToyotaCare 250 on Friday night at Richmond, and then travel to his hometown, Monterrey, Mexico, for the Regia 240 on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s probably one of the busiest weekends in the year for us, doing our debut in the Nationwide Series,” Suarez expressed about doing triple duty this weekend in two different countries. “A couple minutes later we need to get ready for the K&N race. After the race is over, we need to get ready to get in the airport and leave to Monterrey, Mexico, (for the) NASCAR Toyota Series race.”
“So we’ve (decided) to drive away exactly when the race of the K&N is over (back) to Charlotte, take a flight at 6:00 a.m. to get into Monterrey, Mexico for practice and qualify for the NASCAR Toyota Series deal.”
Suarez is also excited to close out the biggest weekend of his career in front of his hometown crowd on Sunday.
“Probably (to) get that victory in front of your family, friends, all these people that have been watching me growing up since I was 11 years old, definitely means something big for me,” Suarez furthered explained.
Suarez, 22, admitted during the conference that he and Joe Gibbs had not signed for anymore races then Richmond; however, he’s still expressed his thankfulness.
“For now we just signed a Richmond race,” Suarez explained about the current contract with Gibbs. “To be honest, we have been talking about (this) since last year (on) how to do something good. I’m really happy to be in this position right now, to have everyone in Mexico, like Escuderia Telmex and Telcel Racing, helping me in my career.”
“Right now, Joe Gibbs Racing, is an amazing project. We were talking about (doing) something in the second half of (the season). For now, (though), it’s just Richmond, but I’m really looking forward to do something good in the future. I’m just focused to do well in this race (at Richmond). I’m pretty sure that after that race we are going to have something for the second half of the year.”
Suarez did, shyly, express that he’s never driven a Nationwide Series machine, or even tested, however, he’s hoping the K&N and MTS experience will pay huge dividends in helping him adapt quickly.
“It’s going to be a new experience for me.” Suarez alluded to after being questioned about past experience. “The Nationwide car already is something different for me. I never have been in a Nationwide car. But to be honest, I have a lot of confidence on myself and also in Joe Gibbs Racing to learn about everything. The first point and the most important point is to try to learn about everything and then be competitive. I think I can say that I love to be competitive in everything I drive, even video games.”
“For now so far we have been trying to practice the pit stops in the shop, trying to get the communication better with my crew chief and with everyone in the team. I think in a couple days, Thursday afternoon, is going to be interesting, my first couple laps in the Nationwide car in Richmond. So let’s see.”
Suarez finished his statements with a strong goal, to finish in the top-10 at Richmond and beyond despite be inexperienced and still developing.
“Finish competitive, finish in the top 10, learn about everything. I think this is the most important point,” Suarez explained about his expectations for his first NASCAR Touring Series start. “But it’s going to be difficult. I think I need to take this step by step, learn about the first practice, try to get the communication better with my crew chief, get a fast adaptation with the car, with the tires, with the horsepower, with the racetrack. After that I think I can start getting my expectation better.”
Kevin Kidd will stand atop the pit box for Suarez this weekend, and while the two have never worked together before, it appears both have a lot of respect and confidence in each other.
“Kevin Kidd is a personal crew chief, that he has a lot of experience in the Nationwide Series, and not just in the Nationwide Series, but racing in general.” Suarez expressed about working with Kidd this weekend. “I think he’s going to help me a lot (this weekend).”
“Like I said last year, I think the communication with my crew chief helped me a lot to get better the second half of (last season). But, you know, it’s kind of difficult because we have been working a lot with the communication with the K&N team, and the Mexico team, but right now the Nationwide Series is something different. Definitely communication is a very, very important point.
Suarez has surprised folks before with his abilities; so, don’t be astonished if the talented up and coming superstar etches his way into the top-10 for a solid debut finish.
“I think my crew chief and my whole team, they are going to try to help me a lot to be as fast as possible, as the same level as them, to try to be competitive and be in a good position for the race,” Suarez concluded with, confidently.