It’s short-track time for Daniel Suárez and the No. 96 T-TEN Toyota Camry team for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to back-to-back Saturday-night races under the lights, beginning this weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
The Federated Auto Parts 400 marks the season’s first visit to the fast, three-quarter-mile oval, which is typically not the case this time of year for the Cup Series competitors. But the COVID-19 pandemic led this year’s traditional spring Richmond race to be moved to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May. With no practice or qualifying having become the norm since the Cup Series returned from a 10-week suspension of the schedule due to the pandemic, showing up race-ready will again be of utmost importance for Suárez and his fellow competitors come Saturday night.
With no practice or qualifying, drivers and their teams have had to rely on technology more heavily than any previous season to prepare their racecars and their strategies since the return to racing in May. Technology and preparation are also hallmarks of the program called T-TEN, which is the acronym for Toyota’s Technician Training & Education Network. Since 1986, T-TEN has partnered Toyota Motor North America with community and technical colleges with a focus on industry standards and hands-on skills training. Its mission is to provide a consistent source of talented, career-minded, trained, certified and committed entry-level service technicians for the more than 1,500 Toyota and Lexus dealerships across the country. In the last three years alone, some 1,200 individuals have completed all program requirements with 90 percent finding employment in a Toyota or Lexus dealership.
Suárez will proudly sport the T-TEN logo throughout his No. 96 Camry on Saturday night, and looks to post a solid result at Richmond in his 28th race weekend since joining the single-car team in January for its first season running the full schedule since joining the Cup Series ranks as a part-time team in 2017.
They’re coming off their eighth top-25 finish of the season Sunday night at Darlington, and head to the Richmond oval where Suárez has enjoyed strong runs the last several years in his six previous outings each in the Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series, the latter where he was 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 series champion driving Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. He’s scored three top-10 finishes in his six previous Cup Series starts at Richmond, to go with a top-five and three top-10s in the Xfinity Series.
With a good grasp on how to get around the Richmond layout successfully, Suárez hopes he and his GBR team led by crew chief Dave Winston can score a mark of 10 – on a scale of one to T-TEN – come Saturday night in the Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia.