KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A clean slate and second big-time opportunity lies ahead for Daniel Suarez heading into his third full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Following four years with Joe Gibbs Racing — a relationship that saw him win a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and make a rapid move to the Monster Energy Series after Carl Edwards’ retirement — Suarez will face the task of learning a new organization, team and manufacturer with Stewart-Haas Racing. The team announced Monday that Suarez will drive the No. 41 this year.
Known for its old-school racing culture, SHR is a whole new world to learn before the 27-year-old driver even turns a lap in the new No. 41 Ford Mustang.
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But Suarez feels his racing background aligns with that of team owner Tony Stewart and new teammates Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, all of whom have reputations for being hard-nosed racers.
“That’s something I really like because the way I have become a race car driver was from hard work and working with old cars,” Suarez told NASCAR.com. ” … I got into this sport with my father, he was my mechanic and I was the driver and we were working together, and we didn’t have the budget or the money to buy an organization to help us. I feel like that’s something that fits very good with the background of Kevin, Tony and these guys.”
Despite the new elements with his move, Suarez said he already feels accepted at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Honestly, it’s only been a couple months of being in close contact with everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing, but I really feel like home already,” Suarez said. “These guys have made me feel like I’m at home.”
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From cycling with Almirola to asking Harvick for advice during his Xfinity days, Suarez earned the respect of his new teammates before the move was even made official — which will make the transition into a new ride even more seamless.
“When you do that, share something other than racing, you talk about many different things,” Suarez said. “Clint, every time I get to talk to him, it’s always about something funny. I feel like it’s gonna be great. I feel like I have a funny personality as well. So, I’m really looking forward to having fun with those guys, racing up front and helping each other.”
Suarez feels he and Stewart have more commonalities than one might think. Both were bred under Joe Gibbs’ leadership style at the beginning of their careers. Suarez also feels he shares a similar personality trait with Stewart, which has potential to cultivate into a powerful driver-owner relationship for years to come.
“You know, something I really like about Tony is that he’s a very straight-forward guy and what you see is what you get,” Suarez said. “I’m like that as well. So I feel like, to have the support of someone like him, I know he won’t hesitate to say anything to me and I know it’s to be a better race car driver and better person.”
Said Stewart, offering his endorsement in a statement provided by the team: “In each series Daniel has raced in, he’s advanced quickly from rookie to race winner. In four years, he went from the K&N Series to the NASCAR Cup Series. In between, he won an Xfinity Series championship, and he did it all while learning a new language and a new culture. He’s dedicated, he’s talented and we’re proud to have him as a key part of our race team.”