After a trip to Texas, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads about three hours northwest of the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) shop to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Daniel Suárez will pilot the red-and-black No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for SHR in this weekend’s event at the .533-mile track.
Suárez goes into Bristol this weekend coming off a third-place finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The result marks his best career finish at the 1.5-mile speedway, as well as his best finish through this season’s first seven races.
“If we would’ve left Texas with a finish outside the top-10, I definitely would’ve been disappointed,” Suárez said. “We were extremely fast all weekend. It’s a huge advantage to be fast right off of the truck and that put us ahead at Texas. We’re definitely making progress.”
The solid finish also moved the Haas driver up to 14th in the point standings to round out the four-car SHR contingent in the standings. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.
Before venturing to Bristol this weekend, Suárez heads to Atlanta Thursday to participate in activities with Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. The Monterrey, Mexico, native is a soccer fan, or fútbol as it’s called in his home country. He’ll get a tour of the Atlanta team’s practice facility, and even join a few of the players for activities on the field.
Then, this weekend, Suárez makes his way to the high-banked, half-mile, concrete oval at Bristol, where he has top-20 finishes in each of his four Cup Series starts with a best result of 11th in April 2018, when he also led five laps. He has an average Bristol starting position of 17 and an average finishing position of 15.5.
Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets. This weekend marks the fifth time Suárez has piloted the Haas Automation scheme.
The No. 41 team led by crew chief Billy Scott returns to the site of its lone victory last season. The only major difference on the No. 41 roster this season is Suárez. Last year’s No. 41 driver, Kurt Busch, outdueled SHR teammate Clint Bowyer on the final restart to capture the victory. The win marked Scott’s first win as Cup Series crew chief and was a also a big win for car chief Tony Cardamone, who is from Bristol, Virginia.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol, Suárez has six starts with four top-five finishes and five top-10s, including two runner-up results in August 2017 and April 2015. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion has also led 42 laps at the “Last Great Coliseum” in that series and has never started outside the top-10. He has an average Xfinity Series starting position of 7.7 and an average finish of 8 at the Tennessee track. The 27-year-old also two NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Bristol with 77 laps led, but both starts ended prematurely.
Ford has captured three victories in the first seven races this season. The new Cup Series Mustang also has four pole awards, two of those by Suárez’s SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick. SHR has two wins as an organization at Bristol, with Harvick’s August 2016 win to go with Busch’s win last August.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
We saw a couple of different strategies throughout last weekend’s race at Texas. How important are strategies?
“It’s extremely important, but the strategy doesn’t come on the last stop. In the middle of the race, you have to reevaluate your strategy and have to have your plan A, B and C. We saw at Texas there were a few different strategies. Overall, Billy (Scott, crew chief) and my engineers did a great job at Texas. It was a solid weekend and we just have to put ourselves in that position more often. I was excited for Texas because I knew I had a good car, but I was a little disappointed with third. Still, it’s a good start to building more speed. I was happy with third, but knowing we had the speed to give us a shot at a win is what makes me a little disappointed.”
How do you think the new rules have changed the performance of teams this year?
“Racing is like a roller coaster. The rules change almost every year and we have race teams that invest a lot of money into simulation and technology. Sometimes when we have a big rule change like we’ve had this year, teams make their own gamble on what they’re going to keep from the previous season and hopefully they get it right. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it OK, and other times you’re way off. When the rules change, you have to start somewhere. Eventually, everyone starts making up ground and will catch up to each other.”