Undeterred by Crew Chief Change, Daniel Suarez Eyes XFINITY Titleby Kyle Pokrefky January 20, 2016 0 comments
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ending his 2015 XFINITY Series campaign on a hot streak, Daniel Suarez has his eyes set on a series championship in his second go around NASCAR’s second-tier national series.
Claiming Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, the 24-year-old out of Monterrey, Mexico recorded eight top-fives and 18 top-10s to become the first-ever driver from Mexico to win a Rookie of the Year title in any national series.
Comparing the first and second halves of his season, the then driver of the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota picked up the pace in the latter half of the year with an average finish of 9.1 in the final 16 races of the season compared to a stat of 14.0 in the first 17.
Suarez turned up the wick in the final six races of the year with six straight top-10 finishes with a best finish of fourth coming at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
Throughout the season, Suarez was partnered with long-time Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated crew chief Eric Phillips in a two-man battery that picked up steam throughout the year.
In 2016, however, that partnership that will be discontinued.
Suarez will now be partnered with Scott Graves – the XFINITY championship-winning crew chief from last year with Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher.
When talking about whether or not he believes the momentum he picked up late last year will evaporate with a new crew chief coming into the fold, Suarez expects to pick right up where he left off in 2015.
“I don’t think so,” Suarez told The Fourth Turn. “I really feel like we built some momentum and we learned a lot as a team. That was something really good in 2015. I feel like our first half of the season was very different from the second half – and we were expecting that.
“When we made some changes to the team, we still have everything that we learned from last year. I really feel like that we’ll be smart enough to keep that momentum and move forward.”
The new driver of the No. 19 Toyota recognizes the potential of the chemistry with his new crew chief and already feels that it is starting to develop between each other.
“What I know about Scott is he is a very smart person and a very smart crew chief,” Suarez stated. “He likes to win. We share these things that I have as well. I’m super excited to start working with him.
“We’ve been already working on some stuff at the shop. So far, so good. I feel like we’re going to build a strong chemistry together.”
Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images