RICHMOND, Va.--Daniel Suarez is “close” to extending his contract with Trackhouse Racing.
But his contract is not the prime concern for the 30-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico.
Performing well in the upcoming NASCAR Cup Playoffs is the priority for Suarez with just three races remaining in the regular season.
“I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to that,” Suarez said of the contract. “I’m so focused on the Playoffs and making my team stronger.”
Suarez is enjoying the best year of his career but there’s always room for improvement. He scored his first Cup win on June 12 at Sonoma Raceway. When he returned from the off-week, Suarez finished 15th at Nashville and then scored four-straight top 10s starting at Road America.
Since the victory, Suarez’s mindset has been squarely set on Playoff-mode.
“I believe that it's not possible to go into the playoffs and just flip the switch and say, ‘OK, now play we're in the playoffs and now we have to push very hard,’” Suarez said. “I don't think it works like that. You have to start building up to that and I feel like that is what we've been doing, especially with 99 team.
“And I think that shows on the track. The last two months we have had race cars capable of finishing top five every single week. The last two weeks we haven't finished there for different circumstances, but besides that, we have finished in the top five, top 8 every single week, so that's good.”
While Trackhouse has provided the driver with fast cars, the last two races have been wrought with misfortune. Suarez had a flat tire in the closing laps at Indianapolis followed by an ill-timed caution that left the No. 99 Chevy mired in traffic at Michigan last weekend. The driver had led 33 laps in the final stage but pitted four laps before the final caution.
“I don't feel like that was execution,” Suarez said of his last two finishes of 28th and 25th. “I feel like it was just bad circumstances of the race because of a lot of squirrels behind me. But when it comes to Michigan, I feel like the same thing.
“We should have finished somewhere in the top three, top five, maybe even winning the race but the caution. The last thing you want when you are starting a cycle of pit stops is a caution, and that's exactly what we had.”
Suarez is hoping to turn his luck around this weekend at Richmond Raceway, where he finished 16th in the spring.
“I feel like this is a real test for us, especially because we struggled a lot here last time,” Suarez said. “So I’m really looking forward to this weekend to see where we stack up.”
On Thursday, Suarez joined Kimi Raikkonen for a test at Virginia International Raceway. The 42-year-old from Espoo, Finland was acclimating to the new car prior to his NASCAR Cup debut in the No. 91 Trackhouse Chevrolet next weekend at Watkins Glen. Suarez was impressed by Raikkonen’s by his preparation leading into the test—which included working in the simulator and pit crew practice at the shop.
“They’ve given him every tool he needs to succeed,” Suarez said of Trackhouse's support. “I've been trying to learn as much as I can from him because already he's an amazing race car driver. But I believe that a race car driver is great not just because he's good at driving, I think it's everything else around it. How he thinks, how open or closed-minded he or she is.
“In this case, I’ve been very, very impressed with him. He's having a great time. He's not here just to have fun, but he's a competitive guy and he wants to do well. So it's been a lot of fun to work with him in the last few days and really looking forward to seeing what he can do next week.”
And his contract?
“I know my manager and people from Trackhouse are very, very close,” Suarez said. “We have never had doubts about you know where we’re at on those kinds of things. We’re just working on a couple of details.
“But yeah, it’s not done yet, but it’s close. I think it's just a matter of time. Overall, I think we're in very good shape.”