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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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