Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) make the trek to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s final regular-season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season – the Brickyard 400. It’s been a crown jewel event since its inception, but it’s even more significant this weekend for Suárez and a handful of other drivers competing for the final two playoff spots.
Suárez heads into the weekend coming off of an 11th-place finish at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The Haas Automation driver is tied with Ryan Newman for the 16th and final playoff position with Suárez holding the tiebreaker. It may come down to the final lap at the iconic 2.5-mile oval at Indy to determine who will take the final playoff positions. While he and Newman are tied for 16th, Suárez’s SHR teammate Clint Bowyer is 15th, eight points ahead and the only other driver in the top 16 to not have secured a playoff position. Should Suárez and Bowyer earn a playoff position, it will mark the second consecutive season SHR will have all four entries in the championship hunt, and it would be Suárez’s first time making the playoffs in his Cup Series career. SHR’s Aric Almirola, who sits 14th entering the weekend, has already secured his playoff spot based on points, while teammate Kevin Harvick secured his spot in this year’s playoffs with his wins in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and last month at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Indy will be filled with pressure for the guys behind the wheel, but it’s something Suárez is used to. “I live for pressure, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “I feel like if you’re a racecar driver and you don’t like pressure, you’re in the wrong business. As a driver, you always have pressure, whether it’s from sponsors to perform, the playoffs or something else.”
In his two previous Cup Series outings at Indy, the 27-year-old has a best starting spot of 15th and a best finish of seventh, with an average starting position of 17.5 and an average finishing positon of 12.5. In his two Xfinity Series starts there, Suárez has a best starting position of second and best finish of third, both earned in his first race there in 2015.
This weekend marks the first time the current Cup Series rules package has been run at Indy, so not only are drivers trying to win one of the biggest races of their careers, some find themselves in a must-win situation to earn a playoff spot. “I have raced in the Xfinity Series at Indy, which is a similar package to the Cup car now, and we ran pretty well,” he said. “We need to have a clean day at Indy and be strong. It’s one of my favorite tracks and it has a lot of history and I’m looking forward to having a solid run.”
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.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Are there any moments from the season so far that, if you could do it over, you wish you would’ve done it differently?
“Honestly, no. I feel like I’ve played my year pretty smart. I try to be smart when I’m aggressive and pick my battles. I feel like I’ve been pretty fair and I feel like people are pretty fair to me, for the most part.”
Do you feel like you’re racing the other 39 drivers out there this weekend at Indianapolis? Or do you feel like you’re racing Ryan Newman, who you’re tied with?
“I’m racing those 39 people because of stage points and everything that is involved with that. At the same time, I’m obviously tied with someone to make it into the playoffs. It’s one of those deals where you have to focus on your race and try and get the most points for yourself, but at the same time you’re always wondering where that other guy is.”