After several seasons marked by struggles at the NASCAR Cup Series level while driving for teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, Daniel Suarez seemed to find a comfort zone in 2022 in his second campaign with Trackhouse Racing. Bolstered by confidence provided by team leaders Justin Marks and ‘Pitbull’, the 30-year-old driver became a consistent front runner and secured his first win at the top level of the sport when the No. 99 Chevrolet pulled into victory lane at the Sonoma Raceway.
While Suarez was happy to earn his first Cup win, he believes there were other opportunities that slipped away. But those learning experiences could prove beneficial in the upcoming season.
“The win was very special,” he remarked during a NASCAR media availability. “We were actually strong enough to win more than one race this year and we were able to just pull it together once, unfortunately. But I think we are capable of doing it more often. I think our team should be stronger next year and we should be able to find victory lane a few times.”
Ultimately, Suarez qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs for the first time in his career then went on to score a 10th place finish in the final Cup Series standings. But the Monterrey, Mexico native pointed out that his team is just now beginning to reach full strength.
“I think it was a very good year, a year of growth,” Suarez declared. “We definitely grew a lot, we learned a lot. We’re still a young team. The ’22 season was the first time we had the 99 team together the way it was. From last year to this year, we only had two people the same, that was the crew chief and one of the engineers. Everything else was brand new.”
The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity series champion believes his team is capable of accomplishing even more in 2023.
“To be able to win our first race, to make the Playoffs, be strong in the Playoffs, advance through the rounds, that speaks very highly of what we are doing at Trackhouse,” Suarez stated. “That being said, we’re happy but we’re not satisfied. We know that we can do more and we will continue to move forward. I’m very happy with where we’re heading. I think that this year was great, very positive, and I’m sure that next season will be even better.”
During the 2021-22 off-season, Trackhouse made a major move. The team which had operated with Suarez as its only driver in 2021 acquired the shop and equipment that once belonged to Chip Ganassi Racing. Along with that came a second car which would be piloted by Ross Chastain. That acquisition proved to be a difference maker in terms of moving both teams forward.
“Ross did an amazing job, him and his entire team,” Suarez explained. “I was impressed with many things they were able to do and they made my team better as well. I feel like we complement each other very well. My team, my crew chief, and my engineers, we learned a lot from him. That was exciting but we have to continue to work together.”
Even with the success of 2022, Suarez wants more and his team is working toward that goal.
“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. I think we did a good job last year. We’re working on a list of things we did good, a list of things we did wrong and how to make those things better. I’m very excited for the challenge. I just feel that we are just getting started.”
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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