Suarez leaning on JGR teammates and Edwards ahead of Atlanta Cup debut

Coming off of the 2016 Xfinity championship, rookie Daniel Suarez didn’t get the debut he was hoping for in last Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Suarez leaning on JGR teammates and Edwards ahead of Atlanta Cup debut
Daniel Suárez , Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crash
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Carl Edwards
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez , Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Monster Girls

Despite pit road problems, which put the No. 19 Arris Toyota in an early two-lap deficit, Suarez battled his way back to the lead lap. The 25-year-old Mexican then found his way into the top 10 but it was short-lived as Suarez was collected in an 11-car wreck. 

If it's any consolation, Suarez, who finished 29th, posted the second-best finish among the Joe Gibbs Racing cars. 

“Well, last weekend definitely was a big race,” Suarez said. “I felt like I learned a lot in the Clash and in the Duels. It was a big deal for me to race those races. In the Daytona 500, I just feel like we were trying to take care of ourselves the right way. When it was time to race, we got in a wreck. 

“So unfortunately I don't feel like I learned a lot because I was trying to take care of myself, trying to stay out of trouble. When it was time to race, I got wreck. But I really feel like I learn a lot from the Duels and from the Clash, moving around, a little bit in the Daytona 500 as well.” 

High hopes for Atlanta

Atlanta Motor Speedway offered a new opportunity for Suarez. In two previous starts in both the Truck and Xfinity Series, Suarez posted a top five and a top 10 finish, respectively.     

“I'm one of those drivers, I got this question a lot, if I'm glad that it's over, speedway racing,” Suarez said. “I'm excited about Atlanta right now. I'm super excited to come back to Daytona because I know I can do much more better than what I did. I'm going to be super excited to get back to the superspeedway races.”

To get up to speed, Suarez has leaned on his veteran teammates: Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. At Atlanta, Suarez is also being mentored by his predecessor Carl Edwards. In 19 Cup starts at Atlanta, Edwards scored three wins, 10 top fives and 12 top 10s. The former JGR driver also joined the rookie at Phoenix International Raceway during a pre-season test. 

"I thought I would be helping Daniel more with the race track today but he is super-quick at learning this place,” Edwards said. “Obviously, he's pretty fast. What he told me has been most helpful is understanding the resources that (Joe Gibbs Racing) has and who to go to to talk about your tire pressure, and things that I kind of took for granted. I'll be here as long as they want me to be here. 

"The biggest thing is I don't want to be in the way. This is Daniel's team; he's doing an amazing job. Daniel is super-intelligent and he's got a lot of confidence, too. He's a little more decisive than I was for sure at the beginning of my career. It's kind of neat to watch him. He knows what he wants."

Suarez's relationship with Edwards

Suarez doesn’t consider his association with Edwards as just a working relationship. He considers the former JGR driver a friend. 

“It's very good to have good teammates, and teammates that you know you can lean with them,” Suarez said. “You can ask a question, and you know that they are going to answer the question in the right way. It's just very good, the position I am right now working with Kyle, with Denny, with Matt. Actually, even with Carl.

“Super excited to have friends like that to help me out. I just feel like it's going to be a hell of a year for us. Definitely, we have a lot going on we have to learn. But I really feel like we're in the right spot to try to learn as quick as possible.”

Suarez advanced to the second round of qualifying on Friday. He’ll start 21st in Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500. 

Suarez’s schedule has ramped up considerably since graduating to the Monster Energy Cup Series. While it’s been a transition managing his at-track responsibilities compared to his free-time, Suarez understands the need to find the proper balance. 

“I really enjoy a lot to spend time in the racetrack with my team, working hard to become a better person, a better driver,” Suarez said. So far I'm really enjoying this a lot.

“We have a long season ahead. I just have so much going on right now …that I feel like I have to improve, I have to get better.”

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