CHEVROLET NCS AT LAS VEGAS 1: Daniel Suarez Media Availability Quotes

MARCH 2, 2024

 DANIEL SUAREZ, NO. 99 FREEWAY INSURANCE CAMARO ZL1, met with the media prior to the NASCAR Cup Series’ practice and qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Media Availability Quotes:

Obviously you won last week, but what made it so much fun throughout the race from the driver’s seat?

“You know, I think that every time you win a race, it’s already special. But if you can pick winning from five-seconds ahead or winning in a finish like Atlanta, I would definitely pick that one every day of the week. It was just very intense racing. I would say that the entire race – I felt it behind the seat and I’m sure you guys felt it from the media center and fans at home and at the race track, the intensity of the race was very high the entire race. It was probably one of the most intense races I’ve been a part of. To be able to survive that and to be in contention at the end to be able to pull off the win that close with two other great race car drivers is quite special. I truly enjoyed that. There are a lot of great people from my team there that night – the CEO of Freeway Insurance, people from Coca-Cola, just so many great people that got to enjoy the victory with us. It was a lot of fun.”

What was the party like after the win? What has this week been like for you?

“You know, I’m not a huge party guy… I don’t even drink alcohol (laughs), but I definitely enjoyed it. I took a day to enjoy it and really live in the moment. But really you can’t do that for too long. In my mind, I’ve already been asked these questions and having fun with it.. but in my mind, I’m already thinking about practice, qualifying and how we’re going to be able to put together a fast lap today. That’s the way I also approached the week. I spent the entire week talking about it, but after Monday or Tuesday, I had already flipped the page. I had the opportunity to go to Nashville on Wednesday or Thursday.. I can’t remember, there’s been so much that has happened over the last week. But I had a great time there with Pitbull on stage. It was fun.. it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot. But the reality is that in my mind, I was already past that. I was already thinking about Las Vegas. But I enjoyed it a lot and my team did, as well. Hopefully we can have more moments like that one this year.”

We saw the photo of the car at the shop and that celebration, but have you given thought to the fact that you’re pretty much locked into the playoffs at this point?

“You know, a few people have asked me that question about the playoffs. But to me, honestly I haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t even thought about the playoffs. We have a long way to go before the playoffs. In my mind, I don’t want to be one of those drivers that wins one race to get into the playoffs and that’s it. I don’t want to be part of that. The goal here is to do more than that; be strong in the regular season. I know that to be able to contend for the championship, you have to win three or more races, and that’s the goal for our team. The goal is to build a strong season where we have stage points and wins, so that when we get into the playoffs, we can say we made the playoffs but in a strong fashion. That’s the goal and everyone at Trackhouse Racing is working very hard to be able to deliver that.”

You won last week, so Max Verstappen had to win this week to keep up with the family?

“(laughs) Yeah.. the thing about Max (Verstappen) is that he makes it look easy. He’s done a great job the last few years.. his entire team, as well. He’s putting the bar pretty high, so I have work to do.”

The wind this weekend; how much does that concern you?

“Yeah, we talked about it as a group. I didn’t really realize how big it was until I got here. On the interstate coming here, it was full of dust and pieces of debris flying everywhere. It’s going to be tricky, but the beautiful thing is that it’s going to be the same for everyone. Everyone is going to struggle with the same thing. Our group on the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevy team, we’ve prepared extremely well and I think we’re as prepared as we can be. We have some ideas, some options, of things to do for the wind because tomorrow, luckily, it won’t be this hard. So yeah, we may have to adjust aggressively for it today, but tomorrow is going to be a little bit more normal. It’ll be windy still, but not as windy as today.”

You and Rajah Caruth both have unconventional paths to get into NASCAR. You can share in the difficulties it takes just to get to this level. Can you speak on his victory for last night?

“You have no idea how happy I was for him. He’s a great young man. Not just a very talented race car driver, but also very dedicated. We get to see each other almost every week, training or doing different things, and I like him a lot. I consider him a friend.

He knows this, and will know this, but the first win is always the most difficult one to get. I’m sure he’s going to win at least a few times this year. He’s very disciplined and he works hard. He’s been strong the last few weeks. I’m very happy for him. Obviously he made history last night, being the third African American driver to win in the NASCAR national series, and he’s very special. He’s also a graduate of the Drive for Diversity program, just like myself, Bubba Wallace and many others. So very happy that we’re seeing good talent from the Drive for Diversity program coming to a national series and being successful.”

Back-to-back examples of the Drive for Diversity program working?

“Of course. I mentioned this a week or two ago, that the Drive for Diversity program has changed quite a bit since Bubba Wallace and myself were there 10 years ago. 10 years ago it was very good.. we had a good opportunity. It was a good program. But today, it’s a great program, and I’m very happy to see that. 10 years ago, it was a great program to give you an opportunity for the K&N Series and the ARCA series. But to make the jump to a national series, it was very difficult. You had to be lucky and you have to be very, very good to get an opportunity.

Today, the Drive for Diversity program is so involved in the Truck Series and that’s very special.. very special because giving an opportunity to these young guys like Rajah (Caruth) and Nick Sanchez to get an opportunity in the Truck Series and perform at a very competitive level. We didn’t have that 10 years ago, so I’m very happy for them. I’m very happy that the Drive for Diversity program continues to grow and continues to get better.”

Next weekend at Phoenix Raceway, they’re going to have the “Viva La Fiesta”. Just curious to hear your overall excitement for that event and the importance of that cultural presence and impact over there.

“Yeah, of course. I think that every time that I come to the west coast to Las Vegas, Sonoma, Auto Club Speedway was very, very big.. Phoenix and Los Angeles – it’s amazing to feel an incredible amount of support from the Latino community, and I feel very, very proud to be the face of this community in the Cup Series. We embrace it and I’m very happy that the race tracks embrace it with us, as well. The “Viva La Fiesta” in Phoenix is just a small example of that. We’re going to be having a great time in Phoenix next week.”

When you scored your first victory at Sonoma Raceway, it was in the middle of the season. This year, you’re two races in and you’re essentially guaranteed a playoff spot. Does that give you an opportunity to gamble in order to try to get some more stage points and playoff points throughout the year?

“I think so, yeah. I had a meeting with my crew chief about it. It definitely gives us a lot more freedom. We want to gamble wisely.. you don’t want to do just wild gambles and hope for the best, like a stage running long and hoping for things to just fall in your lap. But you can gamble a little bit in the setup.. you can gamble a little bit on the strategy. You can push the limits a little bit harder in a few areas. I think it’s a very good thing.

But with that being said, it’s also very important to continue to be consistent.. to continue to be strong and to have in mind that – yeah, we’re in the playoffs, but in my mind, one win won’t do it to be able to get to Phoenix to fight for a championship. You have to really build your resume over the year, and we have to continue to do that. If that’s what it takes to be consistent, to gamble or whatever that may be – we’ll have to figure it out and do it. But I think honestly, this weekend for us is going to be a very, very important weekend. It is for everyone. It’s going to be a very, very important weekend because, as we all know, we have a lot of 1.5-mile tracks and this is the first one with this package. We have to see where we stack up; where we’re strong and the areas that we aren’t very strong that we have to work on. We’re going to find out a lot of things today and tomorrow, and I’m very excited for that.”

Go back to Atlanta again – you, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch are crossing the line all at the same time. What are you thinking? Go through the whole conversation on the radio up until you know that you won.

“Yeah, it was definitely tricky and a little stressful, especially the last couple of laps. I really wanted to be on the outside to have a shot to attack the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney). But unfortunately, the person that was behind me and pushing me was his teammate. So I wasn’t really getting a lot of help to build runs. At that point, it was going to take a little bit of situational things to be able to make a run at it. Luckily, the No. 8 (Kyle Busch) was able to build a run at it with the No. 23 (Bubba Wallace). I was able to stay close to the No. 8 and that’s what created the three-wide.

At that point, once you get three-wide getting into turn three and we’re side-drafting hard exiting turn four – at that point, you’ve already used your bullets. You already did what you had to do and at that point, you’re just hoping that you’re the one. I knew that I was inching ahead of the No. 8.. I was slowly moving ahead of the No. 8 when I did my last side-draft. But I had no idea about the No. 12.. he was so far on the inside and the No. 8 was blocking my view to the No. 12 that I had no idea. I knew he was there, but I didn’t know where he was. So when they told me that we got the No. 8, but the No. 12 was very close, I was nervous because I had no idea. Like if they were telling me that the No. 8 beat us by a nose or we beat him by a nose, I would have believed it because I could see him. Like I said, I knew on the No. 8 but I didn’t know on the No. 12. By the time that we crossed the start-finish line and the time that we actually knew that it was us, it was probably a minute but it felt like three hours (laughs).

But yeah, it was quite special. It’s always fun to get victories like this. I hope that I get an opportunity to experience many, many more in this fashion because in this fashion, like I said, it’s quite a bit more intense and thrilling than winning races by three, four or five-seconds.”

The last year or so, there’s been a lot of talk amongst drivers regarding the lack of respect that has been shown when racing, especially when coming to the start-finish line. Was there any worry in your mind that you were possibly going to get punted, or there was going to be contact by somebody else trying to move you out of the way for the race win?

“You’re talking about when we were already three-wide, or before that?”

So even just coming down the backstretch, when you guys were trying to make the runs and coming out of the turn three when you were trying to make your move to take the lead, were you worried that somebody was going to throw an aggressive block?

“I was a little bit on the No. 2 (Austin Cindric) because I knew I couldn’t trust him, especially because his teammate was in the lead. He didn’t want to push me. He was pushing me just enough to stay up there, but never hard enough to make a run on the No. 12. I had to make sure that when he was pushing me, I was on my toes of where he was going to go because I didn’t know if he was actually going to push me or he was going to do something else. Like I said, on the back-straightaway, he never touched my bumper because he was lifting so much. But I have raced with Ryan (Blaney) for many years, along with Kyle (Busch), as well – when we were three-wide, we didn’t want to hit each other. Lets say that if Kyle and I were hitting each other, that was going to give Blaney the win. If Blaney and Kyle were hitting each other, that was going to give me the win. So at that point, we knew it was in our best interest not to touch because whoever was touching the other one, it was going to affect us, too. So if it was a battle between two cars, yeah, you may touch a little bit more because it’s a different situation. But with three cars, you’re in a different spot. You’re not fighting one guy, you’re fighting two. So it’s a little bit more complicated.

I feel like there’s a lot of lack of respect many times, but that’s what makes racing fun, too. Right there at the end, we raced with respect because it was in our best interest, so it worked out that way.”

Did you have any interaction with Pitbull at the concert? Just talk about the experience of being introduced and coming out on stage.

“That was quite an experience. I wasn’t thinking much about it when they told me I was going to do that. And then I had a little talk with Pitbull before he performed and he said – yeah, I’m going to bring you on stage and then you can talk and then we can have a shot of my tequila together. I don’t drink, that’s why I got drunk with one shot (laughs). It was very improvised, but it was amazing. I wasn’t thinking much about it. When I was in the moment.. when he introduced me and I was talking to all the people there, I mean the energy was unbelieve.. unbelievable when people were screaming. I don’t know if Nashville is normally like this or it was because Pitbull was there or maybe I just got lucky, but there were a lot of Mexican flags with the fans, and people were getting crazy. I was talking in Spanish.. actually I got nervous, I should have spoken English a little bit too, but I did my entire speech in Spanish and people were getting crazy. It was a great time. It was a great experience. Pitbull is such a rockstar. That guy is unbelievable.. the way that he performs; the way he drives people is unbelievable. I’m very happy and I’m very proud to have Pitbull as part of Trackhouse.”

I saw you interacted with a post on Twitter of a woman that was sobbing in the grandstands when you won. She said she had been a fan of hers your whole career, and to be present in Atlanta just brought her to tears. What does that make you feel like?

“Yeah, it was very special. It’s very special because many of these people.. not all of them, but many of these people have had a very similar journey as myself… coming from Mexico or somewhere else in Latin America and just having the same obstacles; not speaking the language and just trying to find an opportunity. I feel like that’s the reason why we connect so well because – yeah, maybe I’m driving race cars for a living, but at the end of the day, we’re the same. We came from the same place and we came with a very similar journey. It’s quite special to give those experiences to my community, to my people, and I hope that I get the opportunity to do that many more times this year and in the future. It’s quite special to be able to have my people so excited and so proud. It’s a feeling that’s just different and I’m very lucky to be in this position and to be the one to actually make those kinds of things happen.”

We’re seeing the growth amongst the fanbase with minorities and people that don’t come from the traditional racing background over here in NASCAR. What do you think is the next step to continue this amazing growth?

“Yeah, you know I think the next step – I talked about this in Atlanta, but I think the next step is to become one of those drivers that when you win, you’re not very surprised that they have won. Who is in that category.. Kyle Larson, William Byron, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, all those guys that win often. They win every single year and they’re in the playoffs every single year. Not just attending the playoffs, but fighting in the playoffs.. that’s the goal. I’m not OK being an ‘OK driver’ or a ‘good driver’ anymore. I had this conversation with my team in the offseason. Everyone on the team has to have the same mentality. If 50 percent of the team wants to be great, but the other 50 percent is OK with being good, that won’t work. Everyone has to have the same mentality, and my goal is to go to the next step.. to go to the next level. I feel like right now, I have the team to do it. The team is in the same mindset of myself, and I have to take advantage of that. I have to bring this group to the next level to be able to get used to that. To be able to not just win one race a year once in a while, but to win three, four or five races a year. That’s my goal and that’s what we’re working towards for this season.”

About Chevrolet

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