XFINITY Series champ Daniel Suarez replacing Carl Edwards in Cup

PHOTO BY ANDREW COPPLEY/HAROLD HINSON PHOTOGRAPHY

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

Daniel Suarez knew the opportunity to race at NASCAR’s top level would come. Just not this soon.

But after bursting on the scene in 2014, the Mexican native is moving from the XFINITY Series to take over the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota vacated by Carl Edwards, who shocked the NASCAR world with his announcement on Wednesday that he’s stepping away from full-time racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“This is amazing,” Suarez said. “I wasn’t expecting to be in this position right now. It’s hard to believe that I’m in this position.

“We started all this dream 10 years ago to be in NASCAR and right now to be in this position is something amazing for me and for everyone that have been helping me.”

Though the quick promotion caught him by surprise, the 25-year-old says he’s ready for the move. He is fresh off capturing the XFINITY Series title in 2016 and becoming the first Latin American driver to win a NASCAR national series championship. He finished the season with three victories, including the title-clinching race at Homestead. He is also the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race and lead the points standings.

“When you are with the right team, you know that the opportunity will come. And it will come at the right time,” said Suarez, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NXS in 2015. “I feel like in the last two years I have learned a lot in the XFINITY Series. I had an amazing team in 2016 – a team that started to grow a lot. The second half of the year was an amazing team; maybe one of the teams to beat.

“We ended up winning the championship and winning the race. I feel like at this point, every thing that happened in the Xfinity Series helped me to be ready for this opportunity.”

That’s why team owner Joe Gibbs didn’t scramble to find a replacement when Edwards dropped the bombshell on him just before Christmas. He immediately thought Suarez, who also shares Arris as sponsor, was the “obvious choice.”

“He had an unbelievable year in XFINITY,” Gibbs said. “We’ve been around Daniel for two-and-a-half years, and we think he’s ready to go.”

While Gibbs was convinced the No. 19 would be in good hands, his only concern was whether Suarez would keep the news hush until the team made it official. Suarez said he was having lunch with his girlfriend and her family at the time when Gibbs called to tell him he was moving him to Cup. Suarez said the phone call took him away from the dining table for a good 40 minutes and when he returned, he was smiling ear to ear, but was mum.

“You can’t tell anybody, do you understand,” Gibbs said he told Suarez. “And I said not your folks. And one thing I forgot to mention was he probably told the girlfriend.”

“But I was so paranoid that it was going to get out.”

The news of Edwards leaving the sport did leak as Tom Jensen of FoxSports.com broke it a day earlier.

And now that it’s out, Gibbs is focused on putting Suarez in a position to succeed in his first season with the big boys. Gibbs said Suarez won’t be running a full XFINITY schedule, but JGR would continue to field three cars in that series.

“With Daniel, what we are gonna do is talk it over with Dave [Rogers – crew chief] and everybody else and Daniel and we’ll kind of adjust his schedule on what we think is best,” said the four-car owner.

“I think right now we are around 10 races or something. But we could go either way with that. We really just want to do what’s best for Daniel in preparing him for Cup.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *