Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head south to Florida for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400, the 18th race of the season. Suárez’s racecar will be adorned with the familiar black-and-red Haas Automation livery for this year’s third superspeedway event.
Daytona is the first track the Cup Series will return to this season. NASCAR’s premiere series opened the 2019 season at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway in February. That event marked Suárez’s first time behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang for SHR, and he finished 33rd after an accident prematurely ended his day.
Suárez is looking for a little luck after coming off a 24th-place finish in last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The Ford driver worked his way up into the top-10 but contact from another competitor caused a tire to go down and forced Suárez to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop, which put him two laps down on the 1.5-mile oval.
The Mexico native is looking to improve on his Daytona finishes as the superspeedway hasn’t been kind to him. Suárez has five Cup Series starts at the high-banked track and has led a total of 11 laps. The pack racing that is standard fare there has proved challenging for Suárez, with an average starting position of 22.2 and an average finishing position 30.2 to show for it. He’s been caught up in the typical superspeedway accidents more often than not in his young Cup Series career.
He has seven starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona with one pole position earned in July 2015, along with three top-five and four top-10 starting spots. A speed of 180.256 mph there earned his first career Xfinity Series pole. In total, the 2016 Xfinity Series champion has an average Daytona starting position in that series of 12.9 and an average finishing position of 25.0, along with 12 laps led. Additionally, Suárez has two NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Daytona with results of ninth and 28th.
The Haas driver is currently 15th in the Cup Series standings with SHR teammate Clint Bowyer in 16th to round out the four-driver contingent. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. If Suárez captures a playoff position, it will be the first of his Cup Series career. Last year, all four SHR entries secured at least one win and a playoff spot.
SHR has three wins as an organization at Daytona – former SHR driver Kurt Busch in the 2017 Daytona 500, and team co-owner Tony Stewart in the 2009 and 2012 July races.
Ford has 37 all-time Cup Series wins at Daytona and has captured eight victories in the last 17 events there. Ford has found most of its success in the July Daytona event, winning two of the last three and four of the last eight.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
This is your third Cup Series season. Do you expect to be one of the 16 drivers in the playoffs?
“Yes, I have that expectation and we have to work hard for it. I think we have everything it takes to do it, but we’ll see. The team has high expectations and we both want more than just to make the playoffs, and I’m up for the challenge.”
Is there a different type of motorsport that you have never raced that you want to race?
“I hear a lot about the Chili Bowl, Sprint cars and Late Models on dirt with Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart. And as a driver who comes from Mexico, all I have raced is go-karts on asphalt. I have never run dirt in a car in my life. The only time I’ve been on dirt is because I’ve been on a motorcycle or on a four wheeler, but never in a racecar. The culture in Mexico is a little bit different and we don’t have dirt tracks for cars. All we do on dirt is motorcycles, motocross and stuff like that.”