Ole! Suarez supremacy on dirt just another step in strong season to date
Danel Suarez has gone from underdog to contending for wins with new Trackhouse Racing team
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
By Michael Eubanks
NASCAR’s first dirt race in 51 years brought plenty of surprises this past Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But perhaps one of the biggest surprises came from Daniel Suárez.
The 29-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native had never driven a stock car on dirt until a week ago, yet he drove like a natural in Monday afternoon’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In his 150th Cup start, Suárez led a career-high 58 laps before eventually finishing fourth. The finish was his best since Texas in November 2019 and marked the first top-five finish for the newly formed Trackhouse Racing.
“To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. But we’re having fun,” Suárez said in a media release. “Everyone at Trackhouse Racing did an amazing job. This is the second week in a row that we’ve had very fast race cars capable of running in the Top-5, Top-10. I couldn’t be more proud of all these guys.”
Suárez got his first taste of dirt racing last Tuesday, driving a dirt late model at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Marysville, Tennessee. His first NASCAR start on dirt came in the Camping World Truck Series race immediately before the Cup race Monday - a race in which he finished 17th.
With such limited experience on dirt, Suárez had no idea how he’d fare. “When they announced we’re going to be coming here with dirt in one of the races, I wasn’t too sure about it because I never been on dirt in my life,” Suárez said. “In Mexico, we don’t have ovals in dirt, at least as I know.”
But now, the former Xfinity Series champ can’t wait to return.
“It was a lot of fun,” Suárez said. “I really enjoyed it a lot. Now, I’m excited actually that we’re going to come back next year with another shot to race and compete for the win in Bristol on dirt.”
Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Bristol also marked the second consecutive race the No. 99 has shown speed. Last weekend in Atlanta, Suárez ran up front and appeared to be headed for a top 10 finish before receiving a pit road speeding penalty. He ultimately finished 17th at AMS.
“It’s the second week in a row that we’ve been running strong,” Suárez said. “I don’t see this as, okay, we run good because we’re on dirt. I feel like everyone at Trackhouse Racing has done an incredible job to work hard on these cars, [and] get them better.”
Trackhouse’s performance so far this season has been very respectable. While new teams generally struggle in their first seasons, Trackhouse has appeared to perform better and better each week.
Team owner Justin Marks couldn’t be happier of the newly formed team’s results.
“Incredible day for @TeamTrackhouse - I believe that this little team can do big things,” Marks tweeted after Bristol. “Thanks @CampingWorld @CommScope @CocaColaRacing @TeamChevy - so proud of everyone. I’m living my dream.”
NASCAR teams are off this weekend for Easter, but come Martinsville in two weeks, expect Suarez and the No. 99 car to finish strong yet again.
“I feel like Martinsville has been a good place for me in the past,” Suárez said. “I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun there.
“Hopefully we can compete in the top 10, top 5 like we’ve been doing the last couple weeks on a weekly basis. Eventually, we’re going to get a trophy.”