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Apr 25, 2014 - 06:40 PM
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Daniel Suarez prepares for his next step -- the NASCAR Nationwide Series
Posted by: ASkyler on Apr 25, 2014 - 06:34 PM
Feature Articles
Daniel Suarez prepares for his next step -- the NASCAR Nationwide Series


By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Driving in multiple series and handling multiple languages -- as he did during his first international NASCAR Nationwide Series video cam press conference on Tuesday -- has proven to be no problem for Mexican-born driver Daniel Suárez.

This weekend, one of NASCAR's fastest-rising stars will see how he does with three races in two countries in the span of about 48 hours.

Suárez, 22, will make his Nationwide debut for Joe Gibbs Racing in Friday night's ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway (7 p.m. ET, ESPNews).

As soon as that race is over, he'll try for his third victory of the season in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series. Then he'll head to Charlotte, N.C., to catch a 6 a.m. flight to his hometown, Monterrey, Mexico, hopefully in time for Saturday's NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series practice at Autódromo Monterrey, where he'll attempt to defend his race championship on Sunday.

 

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"It's like a dream," said Suárez, who confessed Tuesday that he's yet to make a lap in a Nationwide car. "It's probably one of the busiest weekends in the year for us.

"Right now, I have some homework to do to try to learn a little about the Nationwide race in Richmond," said Suárez, who will drive the No. 20 Silent Circle / Telcel Toyota. "First, and most important, is to try to learn about everything, then become competitive. I love being competitive in everything I drive, even in video games.

"Thursday afternoon is going to be interesting -- my first couple laps in the Nationwide car in Richmond. It's going to be a new experience for me. I need to take this weekend step by step -- to learn about the first practice, try to get the communication better with my crew chief, get adapted to the car, the tires, the horsepower, the race track. After that, I can (realistically set) my expectations."

Suárez says he'll be leaning on his teammates, including Matt Kenseth, who usually drives the No. 20 car, as well as crew chief Kevin Kidd. Suárez, who did get a chance to practice pit stops at JGR headquarters on Monday, says that improved communication between himself and K&N crew chief Skip Eyler have been a major factor in making him a constant threat in that series.

Suárez won his first two races (New Smyrna, Daytona) for Rev Racing in the K&N Series this year and is currently second in points. He's also the points leader in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series in which he's won two of his first three starts.

Taking a chance on young drivers, products of NASCAR's Drive 4 Diversity program and the K&N Pro East Series, are nothing new for Joe Gibbs Racing.

In 2008, a week after his 18th birthday, Joey Logano debuted for JGR in Nationwide, also driving the No. 20 car. By September, the 2007 K&N Pro East champ was driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Logano went on to win 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series races for JGR and in 2009 posted his first Sprint Cup win at New Hampshire in just his 20th series start.

Darrell Wallace Jr., a winner of six K&N Pro East races, was also 18 when he debuted in the Nationwide Series and earned a pole at Dover in just his fourth start for JGR. Now running for Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Wallace became the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series event with his truck series win at Martinsville last October.

"Daniel is certainly someone that's proven to have a lot of talent and we are thrilled this was able to come together and allow him to make his debut at Richmond," said Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs. "I think it's exciting when you look at the young talent our sport has right now. We certainly feel that Daniel is going to be part of the future of NASCAR."

Although Suárez and JGR have yet to ink a long-term agreement, that could be right around the corner.

"For now, it's just Richmond," Suárez said. "This (opportunity) came out very late. For me, it was a surprise to be in a Nationwide car in Richmond. But I'm really looking forward to something good in the future. I'm pretty sure that after this race we'll have something good for the second half of the year."

Suárez could be the first Mexican driver to make it big in NASCAR and feels a bit of responsibility as he heads back home.

"It's kind of cool," he says. "I feel lucky to be in this position right now, to have all the support from the media (and fans) in Mexico.

"We are the defending race champion (at Monterrey). I think that's an important point (to try to) get that victory in front of your family and friends -- all the people who've been watching me since I was 11 years old. That definitely means something big for me."


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