DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your primary goal for the season?
“The first goal is going to be to learn. I pretty much believe that this is the most important thing. After that, I believe we are going to be competitive and if we are competitive and start running in the top-10 or top-five then with some luck we are going to be getting the chance to get a win. That’s pretty much it. I think as soon as we get to be competitive then I think we are going to be in very good shape the entire year.”
How important are the Truck Series races for you this season?
“It’s very important because as a rookie the best thing you can do is try to be in the race car the whole time. To have this kind of opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing and with KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) and with ARRIS, it’s such a great opportunity because as a rookie I don’t know many race tracks. All these opportunities, I will be able to get to know some of the race tracks before I’m in the Xfinity car and try to have some extra practice before everyone else.”
How big of a step are you making in your career this season?
“It’s a big change. I remember like it was yesterday when I was racing on the back straightaway in the K&N Series and a lot of friends and we were able to get the win. It was an unbelievable experience, but that is in the past already. Thanks to a lot of people and thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing, ARRIS and a lot of people, we were able to make this big step and probably the biggest of my racing career. Right now, we are looking forward to this new experience in my racing career.”
ERIK JONES, No. 4 Toyota Care Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports
What are you looking forward to this season?
“I think I’m looking forward to just getting to run full time. Being part time the last two seasons has been tough in a lot of ways and really in the sense that you’re not in the truck every week and you don’t get to have that back-to-back, week-in- week-out run with your team and everything else. Staying in the truck more, getting to run Xfinity races, that will be fun and I’m looking forward to getting more experience there as well. Just an exciting year all around and getting to run a lot of races and hopefully getting to pick up some wins along the way.”
What will it take to attract younger fans to NASCAR?
“It’s tough and it’s kind of a rare breed of teens. I was kind of the kid and teenager that liked cars so NASCAR was a normal interest for me, but so many kids now don’t really have an interest in cars and I think that’s kind of the ground floor of it is getting interest back in just cars in general, which will bring more attraction back to here. Young drivers definitely help it out and I think that youth movement hopefully will help bring new people in. At the same time, there’s more to it that we’re going to have to figure out and I don’t know the answer. If I did, I would come right out with it. It’s just a tough side of things. We need the young fan base for sure and it’s a generational thing in a way of parents passing it on to their kids. At the same time, it’s tough to get that new fan to come in and really get a true experience of it.”
BEN KENNEDY, No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra, Red Horse Racing
What is your long term goal?
“Honestly try to make it up to the Cup Series. This is my second year in trucks and hopefully it comes with a lot of success. Maybe jump in an Xfinity car for a couple races this year and maybe a full season next year. I don’t really know what the future looks like from that perspective. Going down the road, I’d like to make it up to the Cup Series and be a Daytona 500 champion and a Sprint Cup Series champion one day, but that’s my goal.”
Is there a team you would want to drive for in NSCS?
“Being aligned with Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing would be really neat. I’ve talked to Joe (Gibbs, team owner) and J.D. (Gibbs, team president) a couple times and they’re a great group of people. Maybe that route. I’m not really sure to be honest.”
What does it mean to be aligned with Toyota who has won the eight-consecutive NCWTS races at Daytona?
“Not only have they (Toyota) won the last eight Truck Series races at Daytona, but they won 18-of-22 races last year. I think that’s a big stat. Being aligned with Toyota is huge and it’s going to be a huge help to my career and growing up and developing as a race car driver. Not only being aligned with Toyota and TRD, but also Red Horse Racing as well. We have Scott Zipadelli who is going to be my crew chief this year and he’s a great guy. We have an awesome engineer and really have an awesome team that’s come together. I couldn’t be more confident going into this truck season.”
What are you looking forward to this season?
“I think I’m just really looking forward to working with this group of guys. Everyone that we have on our team is really an awesome and eclectic group, really diverse and I think they will all really come together and really make us a well-rounded team and also being able to use all of TRD and Toyota’s resources. Really looking forward to that. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing what we can do on the race track this year. I think we’ll have a lot of opportunities and hopefully a lot of success comes with that.”
Are there clear favorites to win the Daytona truck race?
“I think anyone can win it and I think qualifying is so important with these races, I think we learned that a little bit last year at Daytona and with Talladega as well. Just that being really the first race that we were introduced to the new qualifying format that we were going to utilize. I think qualifying will be really important in figuring out our strategy around it. If you can get on the pole then you have that last pit road spot and you can get out of pit road really easy and you can time it with everyone else. You can really judge your race off of everyone else and if you can beat everyone off pit road on a lot of stops that you’re just doing gas and go then hopefully you can get out front. It’s an interesting race and it’s really going to be about making that outside line work if you’re in the back of the pack. If you’re in the front then you’ll probably stay on the bottom. Being able to make that outside lane work makes it that much more intense and dangerous I think just because everyone is trying to side draft especially through the corners and they get the run down the straightaway. I think it’s anyone’s race really.”
MATT CRAFTON, No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
Was winning the second championship easier than the first and how will you approach going for a third?
“Two was actually a lot easier to be totally honest and the points gap was closer, but for me personally and internally and in my head, definitely two was a lot easier. Three, I’m just going to go with the same mindset I did for two – just go out here and race and have fun. I get paid to do what I love to do, so not put any pressure on yourself and just go out there and try to lead laps and win races.”
Did your team make any changes in the off-season?
“We definitely worked on some of our trucks and tore some apart that we didn’t feel were quite as good as some of the other ones in the wind tunnel. Just tuned our stuff and tried to make it a little bit better. I feel very, very confident in all the changes we made personnel-wise going into this year as well.”
How superstitious were you about winning two championships in a row last season?
“I didn’t try to put a whole lot into it throughout the season. I really tried to put it in the back of my head and not think about it at all. The only time I would really think about it was when the media would bring it up and talk about it. Besides that, I would just try to shut it out. It’s an awesome accomplishment without a doubt to say that we won two in a row and to hear people say that it’s never been done, that’s usually the time that it sets in for sure.”
What is your relationship like with Carl ‘Junior’ Joiner?
“I can honestly say we’re best friends. We talk about anything from life to anything. We lived together from the end of 1999 then for a year and a half and he (Carl ‘Junior’ Joiner, crew chief) was my co-crew chief with my Dad and in 2000 we won a championship together there and not many people really know that we won a championship the first year we ever worked together and him being a crew chief and then he came to be my Truck Series crew chief in 2012 – we didn’t win it there, but the next two years we did. Three out of the four years that we’ve worked and he’s worked as my crew chief, I’ve won a championship so it’s not a bad stat really.”