Daniel Suárez’s playoff hopes come down to 400-miles of high speed racing Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and a simple strategy.
Win and he is in.
Since he is 18th in points and 43 points out of the 16th and final playoff position there is a slight chance to earn enough points to make the playoffs.
However, his most likely road to success for his Trackhouse team is to win Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 and automatically earn the playoff berth.
“We know what we have to do and that’s win,” said Suárez. “It’s pretty simple and we plan to give it our best shot.”
Suárez winning in Daytona isn’t a long shot.
In February’s Daytona 500 the 31-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native scored a seventh-place finish.
At last year’s September race at Daytona, Suárez led the field going into turn one on lap 139 of 160 when rain drops appeared on his windshield. A split-second later he and two other leaders began spinning on the wet track at 200 mph triggering a multi-car accident and ending his race.
In 2021, just as he was about to overtake Kevin Harvick for second on the final lap and battle Ryan Blaney for victory, Suarez was clipped by another car triggering a multicar accident that left him with a 20th-place finish.
Suárez does have a mathematical chance to make the playoffs without winning. He trails Bubba Wallace by 43 points and Ty Gibbs by 11 points.
Suárez can earn as much as 10 extra points in each of the two stages at Daytona and then earn points for where he finishes in the race. Were Suárez to win both stages and finish second in the race, he would earn 55 points. He would need Wallace to not earn any points in the first two stages and finish 25th or worse in the race.
Suárez would need to gain a combined 11 positions on Gibbs throughout the stages and the race. A win by any driver not already in the playoffs will eliminate any points chance for Suárez, Wallace and Gibbs.
As it has in the last two weekends, Suárez’s Chevrolet will carry the blue and green Freeway.com livery at Daytona.
NBC will televise Saturday’s race at 7 p.m. EDT.
Is there pressure?
“Well everyone is different, right? Like the way I personally perform, I love being in these kind of scenarios. I feel like as a race car driver and as an athlete, you really live for moments like this. You don’t get to experience moments like this all the time. And when you do experience these moments, I feel like that’s really when you get to show what you’re built of.”
How would you evaluate your season?
“You know, that’s a difficult question because I feel like it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster for the No. 99 team. In the beginning of the season, we had a lot of speed, but we were not executing right. Either I was making a mistake, or we were having wrong lights on the dash, or you name it…there were a lot of things happening and we were just not executing right. And then later in the year, the middle part of the year – we started executing better, but then we didn’t have the speed. The speed was just okay, it wasn’t winning speed anymore like it was at the beginning of the year.
“I think there is a lot of room for improvement. I’m very harsh on myself. I’m always trying to find perfection. But I also think in the last few weeks, we’ve been on the right track again. So it’s hard for me to put a number or a rate for this year, but I think it’s been inconsistent. I think we still have some work to do. My plan for this 2023 season was to be able to just be more consistent than what we were and in a stronger fashion. And we’ve been there, but not all of the time. So we have some work to do. I believe that I say this and we can win and then we turn the whole thing around. But I feel like we still have to continue to work, continue to not feel like that we’ve settled and continue to move forward.”
- Suárez, 31, became the first driver from Mexico (Monterrey) to win in the NASCAR Cup Series on June 12, 2022 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
- He is one of six drivers not from the United States to win a NASCAR Cup Series race: Shane van Gisbergen (New Zealand), Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) Earl Ross (Canada) and Mario Andretti (Italy).
- Suárez owns one victory and three Busch Light Pole Awards – Pocono (Pa.) Raceway July 2018, Kentucky Speedway July 2019 and on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway August 2023.
- Suárez drives for the third-year team Trackhouse Racing – a team owned by former racer Justin Marks and partner Pitbull.
- Suárez, came to America to race. He did not speak English when he arrived in Buffalo, New York.
- He is the only Spanish-speaking driver in the NASCAR Cup Series.
- Suárez became the first Latin American, as well as the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate, to win a NASCAR national series title when he won the 2016 Xfinity Series championship.
- In 2016, he became the first Mexican driver to win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, claiming three victories at Michigan, Dover and the championship finale at Homestead-Miami.
- He was the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year – the first Mexican driver to win the award.
- In 2013, Suárez finished third in the ARCA Menards Series East final championship standings, the highest finish for an international driver in series history.
- Suárez and fiancé Julia Piquet were engaged in November 2022.
- Suárez received the National Series Driver Award during the NASCAR Diversity Awards in Los Angeles in February.
- Suárez is a fan of the Mexican Soccer team Tigres UANL – he grew up playing soccer.
Trackhouse Racing PR