Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) return to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend for the season’s second race at the 2.5-mile track known as the “Tricky Triangle.” Suárez will pilot the No. 41 machine with the familiar, red-and-black Haas Automation livery.
At Pocono in June, Suárez started ninth in the 160-lap event and finished eighth. But, the day wasn’t without its challenges. The Haas driver had to overcome a pit-road speeding penalty during the break between Stages 1 and 2, which sent him from the top-10 to outside the top-20.
Suárez won his first Cup Series pole award at Pocono a year ago this weekend with a lap of 50.851 seconds at 176.988 mph. He was the first Mexican-born driver to win a Cup Series pole award and he captured it in only his 57th start in NASCAR’s premiere series. Suárez captured his second career Cup Series pole two weekends ago at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, SHR’s fifth of the season.
In the Haas driver’s five Cup Series starts at Pocono, he has a best finish of second earned last July, and three top-10 results. He’s led 39 laps in total at Pocono and has an average starting position of 10.0 and an average finishing position of 11.2.
Suárez has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Pocono with one top-five finish and two top-10s with an average starting position of 5.0 and an average finishing position of 7.0. He completed all possible laps in his Xfinity starts and led one lap in June 2017.
SHR has two Pocono victories. Team co-owner Tony Stewart earned the first in June 2009 and former SHR driver Kurt Busch captured the other in June 2016.
Suárez is in his third Cup Series season and has accumulated two top-five and seven top-10s, along with a total of 105 laps led. The 27-year-old has an average start of 15.7 and an average finish of 15.5 this season.
Ford has 23 all-time Cup Series victories at Pocono. The last two Ford winners at Pocono have been first-time victors in the Cup Series. Suárez hopes to be the third.
Suárez is currently 18th in the Cup Series standings and rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the Cup Series 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 regular-season win and a playoff spot. Suárez’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick secured his playoff spot for this year by capturing the win last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you feel the pressure now that you’re currently outside the top-16 and a guaranteed playoff berth?
“I’m confident in the No. 41 team. We have a good group of guys who work hard. Unfortunately, we have had a few things that were out of our control that have happened during the races, which has made things more difficult for us. Other times, we’ve been trying different things to see if they’d work or not, and some of those things didn’t work. But we have some of my best tracks in Pocono and Watkins Glen coming up. We’re just going to keep focused and doing our jobs.”
What do you feel is most important to be successful at Pocono this weekend?
“Track position is extremely important every weekend, but it’s especially important at Pocono. We saw that in the race at Pocono earlier this year. Obviously, qualifying well is important to starting off strong in the race. Stage points are extremely important in helping us with making the playoffs. Track position has always been important, but it’s more important than ever. If we make a mistake, it takes so much longer and is so much harder to recover from.”