Coming off his and his still relatively young team’s second top-20 finish of the season last Sunday at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daniel Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) will hit the track this Sunday just down the road at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, one of Suárez’s best racetracks in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series.
The 28-year-old Suárez is the most recent NASCAR Cup Series pole award winner on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval, having snatched the top qualifying spot in his Stewart-Haas Racing entry a year ago this weekend. He went on to lead 52 laps on race day before bringing home an eighth-place finish.
In his four Kentucky outings in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, in which he won Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 and the overall championship in 2016, Suárez has earned three front-row qualifying positions, including the pole in the September 2015 race, and three top-four finishes. He was second to Elliott Sadler in the September 2016 race, third to winner and then-Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch and runner-up Austin Dillon in the July 2016 race, and fourth to winner Brad Keselowski, runner-up and then-Gibbs teammate Erik Jones and third-place Busch in the July 2015 race.
And in his two career Kentucky appearances in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, both with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Suárez started and finished fourth after leading 18 laps in 2015, and started on the pole and finished 11th after leading 59 laps in 2016.
This weekend, in his fourth career Cup Series outing at Kentucky, Suárez returns to the Bluegrass State with his single-car GBR team that is competing in the Cup Series full-time for the first time since joining the series in 2018. It will be just the 54th Cup Series outing for GBR – a mere season-and-a-half worth of races competing against multicar organizations, many of which have been around for decades.
Suárez and his GBR team feel confident they will one day be racing for wins against those larger, more established organizations, and they know full well that it will take time. Grinding out finishes like last Sunday’s 20th place at Indy, in which the team fixed a power steering fluid leak and related alternator issues during the first half of the race, are the signs of the incremental progress the team is determined to continue from week to week.
At this Sunday’s 400-mile race, Suárez and his GBR team look to take another successful step forward in their evolution together, and perhaps benefit in big ways from his previous successes on the state of Kentucky’s second-most-famous racetrack.