CHEVROLET NCS AT CHICAGO: Daniel Suarez Media Availability Quotes

Daniel Suarez, Driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Camaro ZL1, met with the media in advance of racing double duty in the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Chicago Street Course.  

Media Availability Quotes Highlights:

When you go into this event, do you expect there to be a little bit more aggression than other road courses? Do you just know that going in, or would you completely disagree that it’s no different than any of the road course races?

“Yeah, well first of all, I’m super excited to be here. The race is amazing. The event is unbelievable. I want to give a lot of credit to NASCAR, to you guys, all the other media and the city for putting this amazing race together. I think when it comes to the drivers, I think in the first part of the weekend, we’re going to be a little cautious, just because racing in the streets, it can be a little intimidating. A little slight mistake and you pay the price big. But as a race team, we’re going to get more and more comfortable, and we’re going to get more and more aggressive. I just think that’s great. I think that last year, we all learned a lot – the drivers, race teams.. even NASCAR. The second year, I feel like we come with a lot more knowledge and we’re more prepared. So I’m really excited and looking forward to seeing who’s going to be contending upfront. I feel like last year, if I remember correctly, there were maybe five to seven of us that were upfront with an opportunity to win the race. But I can assure you that there will be way more than seven cars fighting for the win this time, just because everyone keeps getting better and that’s going to make the race even more exciting for everyone.”

Having Shane van Gisbergen to lean on as a teammate, how has he been able to help you and Ross (Chastain) prepare for this year’s event?

“Yeah, honestly, I felt that last year, he helped our entire program a lot because, like I said, nobody had experience in street course racing last year. In my entire career – I’ve been racing over 20 years and in my entire career before last year, I had two races in the streets; one was in go-karts and one was in a Trans Am, and that was it. Ross (Chastain) had never raced a street course before. Most of us had never seen a street course before. Shane (van Gisbergen), he had been doing street races.. like 100 races. He’s experience in street course racing.. he’s tremendous. I mean last year, he had more experience than the entire field combined. So last year, he was able to really help a lot. This year, I still believe that he’s helping the entire program. With having said that, the entire team already has knowledge. Everyone has experience. Everyone knows what to expect; what to do, what not to do.. things like that. I believe that Shane is going to be extremely strong this weekend again. But I think, like I said, there will be a lot more contenders in the mix.”

How did you experience your first Fourth of July as a United States citizen?

“It was a little different. Most Fourth of July’s, I’d go with friends and we do a barbecue, go to the lake and things like that. My first Fourth of July as a United States citizen, I was unpacking because we just moved (laughs). So it wasn’t very exciting.. it was actually a little boring. But you know, it’s how it is. It’s been a little bit busy at home lately.”

You obviously didn’t get the finish you would have wanted here last year. You’ve had a bit of a struggle these last few weeks. But your teammate won here last year and Ross (Chastain) was close to winning last week. How does this week, as an organization, give you confidence heading into this weekend?

“Yeah, we’ll see. Definitely running well helps and we have to build on that. With that being said, I’m a very realistic person. I like to live on planet Earth. I don’t like to be on a different planet (laughs) with not being realistic. The reality is that last week, I would say that in Nashville, we had a good run. We had maybe a 10th to 15th place car before all the chaos we had there at the very end. We were running 12th or 13th, and Ross was in a good position. I think Ross was maybe a little bit better than us. I still believe that there were cars out there that were much better than us, but strategy got him in that position.

For me, when I start thinking about being realistic.. you tell me, ‘Hey Daniel, the No. 1 almost won last week’. Yeah, the No. 1 team did an amazing job executing a good race; making some good calls and good strategy, and things almost worked out for them. But they didn’t have the speed to flat-out win the race. So we still have work to do. Our road course program – the last race at Sonoma, I think the No. 1 team was pretty good and we were OK. We were not very good.. we finished 13th, which is not very good. 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. So pretty much, right now as we talk here, there are race cars down there.. nobody knows yet, but there are some cars that are going to be very fast, some cars are going to be OK and some cars are going to be slow. So hopefully we have some of the cars that are going to be very fast and we can make it a little bit faster in those 20 minutes and go execute in the race.”

You’re one of the handful of drivers that will be doing double-duty. Is this Xfinity Series race one that you particularly wanted to do? How can that help what you do on Sunday? Is there a tremendous value in running the race on Saturday?

“Yeah, that’s a very good question. If we were in Sonoma, Watkins Glen or any other race track and I had the opportunity to run the Xfinity race, I may do it.. I may not. I don’t know, like I would really have to think about it because the cars are so different nowadays that it can be helpful or it can be hurtful. The transmission is different. The engine is different. The suspension is different. Everything is different. The only thing that’s the same is that it has four tires (laughs), but everything else is different. But here on a street course, like I was talking earlier – I, personally, don’t have a lot of experience on street courses. I’ve had three street courses, so far, in my career. So the more laps that I can get, the more reps that I can get at this track, I’m going to take it. I have a great opportunity with Mario and his group, and hopefully we can make the most out of it. They’ve been working very hard to make this race car as good as possible, and I’m really looking forward to getting some extra reps. With that being said, I have in my mind very clearly, that the cars are completely different; the transmission is going to be different and everything is going to be different.. the brakes are going to be different. But the goal of this for me is to give Mario and his group a good result, and also for me, to get some extra reps on a race track that I know is different than 99 percent of the schedule that we have in NASCAR.”

When you talk about SVG elevating the entire Trackhouse program, obviously he’s got a completely different style with the right-foot braking technique. So how do you take that data when you can’t really mimic what he’s doing?

“That’s a good question. That’s a very, very good question. You know, it’s just a different style. Do I think there’s an advantage to do what he’s doing? I would think so. But whatever he does and the way he’s doing it and the time – because he takes his time, getting from the gas pedal to the brake. That time that the car is settling is working.. it’s working. And I believe in some corners, it works for him, and some corners, not so much. We went to Indianapolis last year – he was good, he was fast and he finished in the top-10. But he wasn’t as dominate as he was here. So I definitely feel like there’s something there to learn. I believe, and this is just my personal opinion, is that the clutch-heel that he does is a huge advantage in the Xfinity Series and not so much in the Cup Series. Again, this is just my opinion, and the reason for that is because in the Xfinity Series, you have the wheel hop and you can control that with the clutch. In the Cup Series, we don’t have wheel hop.. it doesn’t exist. So it’s a little bit different, but definitely, his style works. I was talking to Shane about this a few weeks ago, and when I moved to the United States 12 years ago, I used to do that. I used to do exactly what he does now because in the NASCAR Mexico stuff, you used to use the clutch to shift. So I used to do exactly the same thing. It took me a year or two to swap my mentality and my style to what everyone does here. He told me he’s too old to change (laughs). But yeah, it works for him and I think he’s going to continue to be very strong. I’m very looking forward to racing against him. It’s impossible to really, really know if it’s better or worse.. I mean I believe if he was braking with the left, he would be just as good. He’s just good.”

Did you ever think about maybe switching back?

“I mean, I feel like I could do it. I could do it if I gave it a shot.. I just don’t believe that in the Cup Series, like a lot of people think that is the reason why he won here last year. I don’t think so. I think that he won here for many reasons, and that’s just his style. But I believe I can replicate what he does with the right-foot brake, with a left-foot brake. It’s everything about timing. The clutch part, I cannot replicate that because my left-foot is either on the brake or the clutch.. you cannot do both. But I don’t think that the clutch does a lot in these cars. It does a lot in the Xfinity stuff. That’s why I think in the Xfinity car he’s going to dominate a lot on road courses because the wheel hop doesn’t exist for him in the Xfinity car because he’s using the clutch and nobody else is doing that.”

What was your first impression when you got here last year?

“For me, the coolest part was to walk to the track and seeing fans left and right. That was super cool, you know? I was actually just doing an interview downstairs and I felt like it’s super personal for many people here; to come race here in the streets of Chicago. Next week, people are going to be driving on these roads that we’re going to be racing over 100 mph on and they’re going to be running 45 mph and they’re going to say, ‘man, these guys were running yesterday here, 160-170 mph’. So that part is crazy to think about. And also, we’re racing in their city; racing on their turf. So I think that’s very special. I don’t know.. I personally think that we should have more street courses because it’s an amazing way to connect with the city at a whole different level. It’s way more personal. We’ve been bringing fans to the racetrack for over 75 years, and I feel like this thought process of bringing the racetrack to the fans, I think it’s a very good way to do it.”

You said earlier that you feel pretty decent about where your team is at and you’re slowly gaining momentum. Where do you think you guys stack up right now compared to the rest of the post-season field? Do you feel like you have what you need to make a deep run in the post-season?

“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. (Inaudible…)

But 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 and we were able to drive through the field and we were running in the top-15. We just have to be a little bit more consistent. Like New Hampshire, for example, it was probably the worst car I’ve ever had at New Hampshire. The car was bouncing like crazy. I talked to my guys about this – 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. 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. So it’s just very important to be smart about our decisions; how we’re going to make sure that we’re competitive. If we’re going to miss it, miss it by a little bit. Don’t try to hit homeruns because you’re not going to win a championship by trying to hit homeruns.. you have to go through base one, base two, base three. And then when you get that cycle going, then you can start hitting homeruns. In some ways, sometimes we’ve been trying to hit the jackpot a little bit too much as a group. So we just have to be a little bit better with that, and I think then, we’re going to be great and make a good run into the playoffs.”