NASCAR: Mexican rising star Daniel Suarez moving up to Nationwide

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The announcement we’ve been waiting for all summer has finally come down: Carl Edwards is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing.

But today’s also a big day for NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series and K&N Pro Series East product Daniel Suarez.

The 22-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico was also announced today to drive the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry full-time in next year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Additionally, he’ll run select Camping World Truck Series events in 2015 as well.

Suarez, an alumnus of the NASCAR Next program, has had a busy 2014 already.

In addition to running full-time and maintaining the points lead in the Toyota Series (four wins, six Top-5s, six Top-10s), he’s also ran the majority of K&N East events this year (two wins, four Top-5s, seven Top-10s in 12 starts).

He also made his Nationwide Series debut this past spring in a one-off for JGR at Richmond International Raceway, finishing 19th.

“This is crazy…This is a dream come true,” Suarez said today at JGR headquarters in North Carolina. “I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for their confidence and support in a young driver from Mexico that’s just 22 years old. Also, I can’t thank ARRIS enough for their confidence.

“This is amazing. I can’t wait to learn from all of these guys.”

Suarez’s Nationwide Series program will be supported by the Escuderia TELMEX project, which helps many Mexican drivers and their programs across multiple motorsports disciplines.

Most prominent among those are: Memo Rojas and Chip Ganassi Racing’s program in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship; Sergio Perez of Sahara Force India and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber in Formula One; and German Quiroga in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Escuderia TELMEX will also partner with JGR in its diversity program, intending to help develop Mexican and Latin American drivers in NASCAR racing.

“Daniel is here because he has the fight to be here,” Carlos Slim Domit, co-founder of Escuderia TELMEX and Chairman of the Board of Grupo Carso, said today at JGR. “It has been his life. He has given all of his effort possible to reach his dream.

“When we spoke with him when he was very, very young, we said, ‘How do you want your career to develop? Do you want to go to formula cars?’ He said, ‘No, my life is in stock [cars], and I’m going to be the first Latin champion in history in a [Sprint] Cup car.’ Today, he’s starting to reach that dream.”

After starting out in karting, Suarez began his NASCAR journey in 2008 by racing in what’s now known as the Stock V6 Series in Mexico. In 2010, he moved up to the main Toyota Series and won Rookie of the Year honors despite not running a full season.

The next year saw him go full-time in the Toyota Series and also make his debut in the American-based K&N East series. He’s competed in both leagues ever since, going as far as running a full schedule in each of them last year; Suarez finished second in Toyota Series points and third in K&N East points.

Even with half the purse and no fans, Indy 500 still has major team value

Indy 500 purse fans
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Even with reportedly half the purse and no fans in attendance, NTT IndyCar Series driver-owner Ed Carpenter believes it remains “absolutely critical” to hold the 104th Indy 500.

“Far and away it’s what makes and breaks our season as teams,” the Ed Carpenter Racing namesake told reporters during a Zoom media availability last week. “It’s the most important event to our partners. It 100 percent sucks not having fans there and not even being able to have the experience with our partners in full being there. But it’s necessary.

“We’ve got to look at all the hard decisions now of what we have to do to be in a position to have fans in 2021. It’s critical for the health of the teams that we have this race to make sure we have teams back here next year. That sounds a little dramatic, but that’s the reality.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

DAILY INDY 500 SCHEDULEClick here for all on-track activity in August at Indy

“We live in not only a very volatile world right now, but our industry and motorsport in general, it’s not an easy business to operate. When you lose your marquee event, it’s a lot different than looking at losing Portland on the schedule or Barber. They’re in totally different atmospheres as far as the importance to us and our partners.”

Robin Miller reported on RACER.com that IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske told team owners last week the purse for the postponed Indianapolis 500 was slashed from $15 to $7.5 million. Miller reported holding the Aug. 23 race (1 p.m. ET, NBC) would be a $20 million hit to the bottom line.

Carpenter still is supportive of Penske’s “outstanding job” of leading the series through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even with a 50 percent purse reduction, the Indy 500 remains the linchpin of teams’ economic viability.

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The schedule has taken many hits with the cancellation of races at Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Portland International Raceway, Laguna Seca and Toronto, and another race weekend doubleheader at Mid-Ohio has been indefinitely postponed.

That leaves the 2020 slate at 12 confirmed races of an original 17, which has raised questions about how many races teams need to fulfill sponsor obligations.

“It’s a moving target,” said Carpenter, who announced the U.S. Space Force as a new sponsor for the Indy 500. “I think we’ve been pretty blessed as a team with the level of commitment of our partners and their understanding of COVID-19 and the impact on our schedule, our contracts.

“All of it is out of our control, out of the series’ control, the promoter’s control. At the end of the day is there a firm number (of races) I can give? No. But definitely every one that we lose, it does make it harder to continue having those conversations.

I think everyone’s as confident as you can be right now with what we have in front of us with what’s remaining on the schedule. Things are so fluid, it changes day-to-day, let alone week-to-week. We just have to take it as it comes. Right now the focus is on the 500 and maximizing this month to the best we possibly can given the situation.”

That’ll be hard this month for Carpenter, who grew up in Indianapolis and is the stepson of Tony George, whose family owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway for decades.

Having spent a lifetime around the Brickyard, Carpenter will feel the ache of missing fans as he races in his 17th Indy 500.

Ed Carpenter, shown racing his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet at Iowa Speedway last month, led a race-high 65 laps and finished second in the 2018 Indy 500 (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

“Over that time you develop relationships that are centered around standing outside of your garage in Gasoline Alley,” he said. “It stinks, it sucks that we don’t get to share that passion we all have that is the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately it’s the reality we’re in right now.

I think this is the best that we can do unfortunately. Without a doubt it’s going to be a different environment. You’re going to be missing the sounds and a lot of the sights and colors. For sure I’ve thought about it. It’s going to be a different morning, different lead-in to the race. After 16 of them, you have a cadence and anticipation for the buildup. That’s all going to be different this year.

“I’m confident it’s not going to affect the type of show we put on or the excitement and how aggressive we are fighting for an Indy 500 win. It’s still going to mean the same thing. We’re just not going to have our fans to celebrate with after the fact. But it’s going to be historic.”