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NASCAR Cup Chicago

Daniel Suarez on upcoming NASCAR playoffs: "We have work to do"

Daniel Suarez’s early-season victory locked him in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, but he believes his Trackhouse Racing team needs improvement if he’s to win his first series championship.

Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing, Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro

Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing, Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Suarez's win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a three-wide photo finish ended a 57-race winless streak for Mexico native and made him one of the first two drivers to gain a playoff berth.

The former Xfinity Series champion, who recently became a U.S. citizen, has had haphazard results, however, since that early season win.

Suarez has seen some better performances of late, including back-to-back weeks of finishes of 14th at Sonoma – site of his first career win – and ninth at Iowa. The 14th at Sonoma ended a six-race stretch of six finishes of 18th or worse.

As the series returns to its second visit on the Chicago Street Course this weekend, Suarez hopes his team is pointed back in the right direction.

“I feel like we have work to do, to be honest. I believe that if the playoffs were to start tomorrow, I think we would really change the mindset and the way we’ve been doing things, trying different things and the way we’ve been calling some races,” he said.

“When we have good speed, we’re good. We can execute a good race and we can run in the top-10, top-five, all race long. We did it in Iowa. In Nashville last weekend, I feel like we didn’t start the weekend that well, but the car was much better on Sunday.

“We just have to be a little bit more consistent. We’re going to miss it at some races. We’re not going to have a great car every single weekend. But the weekends that we miss, we cannot miss by a lot.

Race winner Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro

Race winner Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

“Our misses should be running top-20, not running 30th. If we run 30th in the playoffs, that’s it. We can say ‘goodbye’ to the playoffs.”

The race Sunday on the 2.2-mile, 12-turn course through the Grant Park area of downtown Chicago should prove a good opportunity for a strong run for Suarez – or perhaps even a win.

Suarez has been a solid road racer and the Trackhouse organization has plenty of good data on the course from the shock victory by its driver Shane van Gisbergen one year ago.

The three-time Supercars champion became the first Cup driver in more than 60 years to win in his first series start. While he is running full-time in the Xfinity Series this season, he is also running a partial Cup schedule, including Sunday’s Chicago event.

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As Suarez’s team-mate, Ross Chastain, also owns a road course win in Cup, this weekend could play an important role in both drivers’ playoff fortunes.

“We still have work to do. Our road course program – the last race at Sonoma, I think [Chastain] was pretty good and we were OK. We were not very good,” Suarez said. “So, you know, we are thinking a little bit outside the box coming here to Chicago.

“Some of the things have worked for us in the past, and some of them are things that we’ve learned the last few months. We’ll see where we stack up. We all have confidence that the cars are close enough that from the start of practice, we’re going to be contending.

“We just have to be in the ballpark because if you’re not in the ballpark at the start of practice, that’s it. You cannot make a slow car a fast car in 20 minutes – it’s impossible. Hopefully, we have some of the cars that are going to be very fast and execute in the race.”

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