The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicks off at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with the 61st running of the Daytona 500 with Daniel Suárez piloting the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). This season marks Suárez’s third year behind the wheel of a stock car in NASCAR’s most elite series for the Monterrey, Mexico native.
The 27-year-old Suárez is looking for a “Haas-ome” year, which in just a little more than a month has already been a busy one. On his birthday, Jan. 7, it was announced he would be the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/ARRIS Ford Mustang. Shortly after the announcement, Suárez headed out to California for a quick media tour and then on to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana for a two-day Goodyear tire test Jan. 9 and 10. The test signified the first time the Mexico native was behind the wheel of the No. 41 Mustang and his first time working with his new team.
Suárez will pilot the black-and-red Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Daytona Speedweeks. Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machines and owned by SHR team co-owner Gene Haas. In addition to Haas Automation, the No. 41 Ford Mustang will also feature ARRIS International PLC for a portion of the season. In 2016, Suárez captured the Xfinity Series title with support from ARRIS.
The No. 41 crew remains intact for 2019 after a successful campaign in 2018. Billy Scott, a native of Land O’Lakes, Florida, continues to lead the Haas Automation team as crew chief. Scott and the No. 41 team most recently visited victory lane at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway race in August 2018. The veteran crew advanced to the Round 8 in last year’s NASCAR playoffs and captured a series-leading five pole awards.
Before running in the 61st “Great American Race” on Sunday, Feb. 17, Suárez will participate in the Advance Auto Parts Clash this Sunday. He gained entry into the 75-lap exhibition race by winning his first career Cup Series pole award at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in July 2018. This season marks Suárez’s second time running the event with his most recent start during his 2017 Cup Series rookie campaign. He brought home an eighth-place finish.
Suárez is the newest driver among SHR’s four-car contingent, joining veterans Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick. The new Ford driver is looking forward to getting to know his teammates better and being an integral part of the two-time championship-winning organization, which is coming off of its most successful season since its inception.
“Stewart-Haas Racing is a very good organization and all they do is race to win trophies,” Suárez said. “Tony (Stewart, co-owner) told me that and you can tell that’s what they do. When the owner of the team tells you that we do everything we can to win races, that just gives you a smile on your face. That’s all you want as a driver, that’s all you care about. I’m very happy at SHR and everyone has made me feel at home in a very short period of time. I’m excited and can’t wait to start the season. We had a test in California and it went well, and it was very productive for me and for my team.”
Among his many goals for 2019, Suárez is looking to improve his record at superspeedways. With three of his four previous superspeedway starts in the Cup Series resulting in accidents, SHR might just turn his luck around. The SHR organization pulled off the amazing ability to stick together throughout almost the entire race during the fall race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last year and Almirola went on to claim the victory. As a whole, SHR led 155 laps that day and looks to have the same success at the season-opening Daytona 500.
“The Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the year,” Suárez said. “It’s a big deal to be in it and to have an opportunity to win it. It’s extremely hard to be up front at the end of the race. It’s one of the races that you can easily be in a wreck that is from someone else’s mistake. At a regular racetrack, it doesn’t happen as much. It’s difficult to win and you have to learn how to run those marathons and I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a bit the last couple of years and hopefully I can put myself in position to be a contender at the end and to win the Daytona 500.”
With several rules package changes, a new manufacturer, new car model and a new team, the 2019 season begins a year of change for Suárez and his Cup Series career.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What’s it like to work for Tony Stewart?
“The way I look up to Tony is that he is a true racer. A guy that does racing for breakfast, racing for lunch and racing for dinner, and I’ve been like that since I moved to the United States. I don’t have family here. I have friends now, but when I moved here in the beginning, I didn’t have any friends, either. When you’re in that position, all you’re thinking about is how to win races and be better. To be able to learn from him and get advice from him as a driver, that’s extremely helpful. I feel like I’ll learn a lot from him and he’s one of the most talented drivers. The year that I moved here to the U.S. in Charlotte, that was the last year he won the championship in 2011. I’ve been a Tony fan since then. I’m excited to know how much I’m going to be learning from Tony, Kevin, Clint and Aric. There’s a lot of experience between all of them.”
What has your experience been like working with Billy Scott, so far?
“For me, you have to have good chemistry and communication with the group of guys. Billy is a racer. When we went to Auto Club, we all went go-kart racing one night and he was the fastest one out there. He likes to win, he’s competitive and it doesn’t matter if it’s the Cup Series or go-karts. We get along well. I’m very confident that we’re going to build a great team together. He has a good personality, he’s very smart and I feel like we are going to be a good fit.”
How challenging is it switching manufacturers?
“It’s been a process. I will say that I’ve never done a change like this, but now I have the opportunity with Ford Performance and it’s been very good. I’m very happy and lucky to be in the Cup Series with Ford and to be in the Mustang. I don’t think there is one person out there who doesn’t think of the Mustang when you think of muscle cars. I think it’s going to be great to run the Mustang in the Cup Series. I was fortunate to drive the car at Auto Club and it felt good.”
What are you looking forward to at Stewart-Haas Racing?
“It’s a very competitive team. Racing for wins week in and week out. SHR was able to do that not only with one car but all of their cars, which is very impressive to me. The goal is to continue to grow with this team and continue to learn from these guys. I have learned a lot. They obviously do things a little bit different from what I’m used to and there are a lot of things that they’re trying.”
How did your first test go with the No. 41 team?
“It was a very productive test for us. Billy and the guys have been trying a bunch of stuff with the Ford Mustang. The car looks very sharp and it’s fast. I’m looking forward to making the car go faster and to drive well, too. We had two productive days and brought back as much information as we could to the table for SHR and for my teammates. It was the first test for me with this package. Everyone is intense about how it’s going to go at a track the size of Auto Club. It reminds me a lot of the All-Star Race and the Xfinity package that I raced back in 2016. It worked out well for me in 2016, so hopefully we can work out something similar. There was a lot of throttle time and drafting, just a different kind of racing. I think it will be fun.”