The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads out West for the third race of the season with Daniel Suárez piloting the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Las Vegas marks the second time Suárez will pilot the black-and-red Haas Automation livery this season.
This weekend marks the first time the series will utilize the complete new rules package. Las Vegas is the first true test of the new rules package, part of which already produced wild restarts last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “The restarts, I hope everyone at home enjoyed them because they were crazy,” Suárez said. “At times, I was screaming to myself in my helmet.”
The Mexico native finished 10th at Atlanta last weekend after qualifying fifth and heads to the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track this weekend looking for another solid result with his new team. In his three previous Cup Series starts, Suárez has earned a best finish of eighth, which he captured in September of last year. Additionally, he has three Xfinity Series starts, which includes a runner-up finish in March 2016, third place in March 2017, and 10th place in March 2015.
Suárez’s new team, SHR, was successful at Las Vegas last year with teammate Kevin Harvick taking the checkered flag in his second of three consecutive wins. Harvick dominated the event, leading 214 of the 267 laps. Harvick’s Las Vegas win was part of an extremely successful season for the two-time championship-winning SHR team with all four entries capturing a victory.
“It has been a lot of fun to work with my teammates – Kevin, Clint (Bowyer) and Aric (Almirola),” said the Haas driver. “They have been very good to me and have been racing for a long time. For me to be able to work with them and learn from them is very good for me. I’m excited for this season and to continue to grow with my team.”
Before Suárez headed to the track this weekend, he attended WWE’s SmackDown event Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first-time WWE attendee collaborated with a wrestling superstar for an upcoming announcement. “I had so much fun at SmackDown,” Suárez said. “It was my first time going to a wrestling event and it was cool to see all of the behind-the-scenes. I learned that their schedule is just as crazy as ours and they have very passionate fans, too.”
Las Vegas is the first of three events in the western portion of the United States and each track during the swing is unique. Las Vegas kicks it off with a fast, mile-and-a-half track, followed by ISM Raceway near Phoenix, which is a 1-mile track, and concludes at the extremely fast, 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Ford has 11 Cup Series wins at Las Vegas, which leads all manufacturers at the venue. The “Blue Oval” swept both races at Las Vegas last year. Ford’s new Cup Series Mustang captured its first win last weekend at Atlanta.
NASCAR’s new rules package is in full effect for this weekend’s event at Las Vegas. NASCAR has made rule changes for 2019 to bolster competition with enhanced aerodynamic and engine configurations. The different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Cup Series circuit, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 – from 750 – and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How has it been working with Tony Stewart?
“Tony is a driver, so he knows exactly what I’m going through and what it takes to be a successful driver. I’ve been extremely impressed with how involved Tony is with the team. It’s hard for me to sometimes separate him as an owner and as a driver because he still drives so much outside of NASCAR. He actually drives in more races than me. I’m very proud to call him a friend, now. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him.”
How do you remain so calm before a race?
“I’m extremely relaxed on the morning of the race, but about one hour before it starts, if you come and talk to me, I’m most likely going to forget what you told me. I’m busy thinking about the race at that time, pit stops and trying to go over the race in my head. Right after the driver’s meeting is race mode for me.”
What has it meant to you to join the Ford camp? Specifically, we see you talking to Joey (Logano) quite a bit.
“Joey and I go way back. I met him when I first moved to the United States and didn’t know any English. Joey was trying to talk to me when I didn’t speak any English. We have good memories together and we talk about how to work together as Ford drivers. He’s a great friend of mine and I’m excited to work with him in the Ford Performance family. Obviously, we want to beat each other, but we’re friends, too.”