Challenge of facing repaved track nothing like what Daniel Suarez faced last week
Daniel Suarez celebrates after wining the NASCAR Xfinity auto race and season title Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Homestead. AP photo
(NBC Sports) - A repaved and reconfigured track that he hadn’t driven on until today? No problem. It’s much easier than what Daniel Suarez experienced last week.
Suarez is looking forward to this week’s challenge after all he went through leading up to Martinsville and last weekend’s race.
Joe Gibbs Racing announced two days before Suarez took to the track at Martinsville Speedway that crew chief Dave Rogers would take an indefinite leave for personal reasons. Scott Graves, who won the 2016 Xfinity title with Suarez, is serving as Suarez’s crew chief.
Suarez admits that the change was a challenge.
The race wasn’t better. Suarez finished a season-worst 32nd in his first Cup run at Martinsville.
“Just happy to get that week over,’’ Suarez said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “There was a lot going on that weekend, and it was a lot of work and a lot of rush and a lot going on. I’m just glad to get that behind.’’
Suarez admits even with the changes to the track at Texas, this is a “more normal” week for him.
“Last week … I wasn’t very excited to get to the racetrack and talk to (the media) to be honest,’’ he said. “It was just a lot going on. I just wanted to get to the racetrack and drive the car. There were a lot of adjustments. When you change a key part of the team, it definitely changes something.
“Now for Texas, I feel we have more time to adapt and talk about things and talk about the racetrack and talk about the car. More and more confident coming into Texas.’’
Suarez will be busy this weekend, competing in both the Xfinity and Cup events. He’s looking forward to the extra track time because of the unknowns with the changes to the racing surface.
One thing he’ll focus on is to be better in the middle of races. While he has a pair of seventh-place finishes (Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway), those results have been because of strong finishes that made up for struggles in the middle of the race. His average running position in the middle of a race this season is 27.3, and his average finish is 19.3.
“I don’t feel that we have raced in the whole race very well, but we have closed the race good with a car that I felt like was capable of doing that,’’ Suarez said. “I had a lot of conversations with Dave about having the right car in the middle of the race to get there in the end. I know that we can do it. We just have to work on our communication to get the car closer to what I like and where I can feel more comfortable and be fast. Hopefully, I can get to that point fast with Scott.’’