DANIEL SUAREZ, NO. 99 TOOTSIES ORCHID LOUNGE CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of the NASCAR Cup Series practice session at Nashville Superspeedway. Press Conference Transcript:
DANIEL, JUST TO START US OFF BEFORE WE GO TO OUR MEDIA FOR QUESTIONS, GIVE US A RECAP OF WHAT LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE THE LAST WEEK OR SO.
“Yeah, it’s been fun and it’s been busy at the same time. I feel very fortunate that I got some extra time to enjoy the moment a little bit more. As you guys know, we had the off week and I got the opportunity to celebrate with my team Sunday night on the plane. But also Monday night, I was able to celebrate with my mom, my dad, my sisters, friends and family. So, it was special. If it was any other week besides Sonoma, it wasn’t going to be like that. It worked out like that and it was great.
I’ve been trying to digest every single moment of it because your first win only happens once. But it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it a lot, but now my focus is here at Nashville.”
THE PINATA – WHEN DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT IDEA?
“A few months ago, I had a few conversations with a few friends in Mexico about a piñata. They asked me what my celebration was going to be and I had no idea; and then a piñata came into the conversation. Then, I had a similar conversation with my teammate, Ross (Chastain), about it. Slowly, it just started making sense. Matt Norris, he works at Trackhouse Racing - he went to check for a piñata. He sent a few pictures of piñatas and a taco piñata was there, so we decided to pick the taco piñata. It’s been with us in the hauler for six or eight weeks, so it was about time to smash it.”
WHAT WAS IN IT?
“The one from the race track, there was candy in it. In Mexico, that’s a big culture thing. Since I turned one year old and all the way to 30 years old, for every birthday, I’ve had a piñata. And I will say that every kid does it; it’s a big culture thing. It was fun.
In Mexico, they put candy in the piñata. You break the piñata and everyone jumps in to get the candy. It’s kind of like that idea and it worked out great, really. It was pretty cool to see the comments from people connecting very well with the piñata idea.”
AND THEN YOU GOT TO GO TO THE SHOP AND PITBULL THROWS YOU A PINATA. YOU SMASH IT AND IT HAS MONEY IN IT. HOW WAS THAT?
“It was cool. I didn’t know that piñata had money. They told me it had something in it. I lifted it at one point and it was heavy (laughs). It was good. I have to say, thank you to Pitbull for throwing the piñata the right way because if it wasn’t for him, I was probably going to miss. But he threw it very, very good.
It was great. That day was also very special for me. That was the last day of celebration for me because that was the last day that I got to enjoy it with Pitbull and my team again. That night, I put it in my mind to flip the page. I enjoyed every second of it, but for me, it’s in the past. Now, it’s time to get some more.”
DANIEL, NOW THAT YOU’VE WON, YOU’VE QUALIFIED FOR THE PLAYOFFS. ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT?
“Yeah, honestly, I haven’t thought about the Playoffs yet. We still have 2 ½ months before that. I feel like there is still a lot of things to be done before that. It feels good to know that we’re locked-in. But as a race car driver, at least for me, we know that being locked-in doesn’t mean a lot. For me, it means a lot when you have a lot of points in the bank – when you have more than a win, but also at least a few Playoff points. That’s when you start becoming a strong contender in the Playoff races.
That’s the goal. We still have 2 ½ months to work on that. Hopefully we can get a couple more wins and some more Playoff points. That would be nice.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK, YOU RAN WELL AT COTA – YOU WON A STAGE, HAD A CHANCE TO WIN AND THINGS DIDN’T GO YOUR WAY. YOU SMOKED THEM AT SONOMA. FOR ROAD AMERICA, EVERYBODY IS GOING TO SAY YOUR THE NUMBER ONE GUY NOW GOING INTO THE ROAD RACE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE THE NUMBER ONE GUY?
“Honestly, I don’t know. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to me. I think at COTA, we we’re extremely strong. Our car broke early and we did what we had to do to finish the stage and survive. But in my opinion, we were very, very strong; even stronger than Sonoma. In Sonoma, we had a very good car. We did a very good job calling the race.
It’s been good. I would be lying to you if I told you I’m not extremely excited about every single road course because I believe that we can win in every single one of them. We have good cars. I have a very good team behind me. I feel like I’ve done a good job with the tools that have been given to me and it’s been fun. So, I’m really looking forward to it.
Right now, I’m trying to put all my energy into here at Nashville. But next week at Road America, I know it’s going to be a lot of fun for me; and hopefully we can have another strong shot.”
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN HERE AND DO IT IN THE TOOTSIES CAR?
“Yeah, that would be really cool. I was at Tootsies last night. It’s been a long week, but it’s been fun. It would mean a lot for Tootsies, for Steve (Smith), the owner of Tootsies; and also for Trackhouse Racing. The whole idea of Trackhouse was actually born here. This is one of the homes of Trackhouse, so it would be very special. If you think about it, last year, Ross (Chastain) and I, we both had a pretty solid performance here at Nashville. So, why not? We really have come from a good couple months of racing, speed-wise. We haven’t had the results that we’ve wanted; but speed-wise, we’ve had speed for two months. So, I’m really looking forward to hopefully be contending for a win on Sunday.”
HOW MUCH MORE CONFIDENT DO YOU FEEL COMING INTO SUNDAY COMING OFF OF THE WIN AT SONOMA?
“Honestly, the people that know me, they would tell me that I’m very confident before or after the win. The biggest change for me is just that I feel relief. I feel more relaxed. I feel that now, I don’t have to answer the question of ‘when are you going to win’. I feel like I got that one out of the way, but I do feel more relief. Confidence-wise, honestly I feel just as confident right now as I did two months ago. I knew that I could win races. Now, the only difference is that everyone knows that other than just me. Hopefully we can carry that over and get a few more.”
WHAT WAS YOUR RECEPTION WHEN YOU WALKED INTO TOOTSIES?
“Everyone was having a good time last night when I walked in. It was good. It was a great time. It was a lot of fun to spend some time with my team, with my pit crew. And with a lot of media; a lot of media were there. A lot of folks from NASCAR. It was very, very cool to see a lot of people from this industry outside of the race track. Personally, I don’t get to see that very often. And the couple times that I have seen it has been at Tootsies (laughs). It’s been fun. I’ve had a good time.”
WE KNOW THE THING ABOUT THESE NEW CARS – AND WE HEARD EARLY ON ABOUT GETTING AIR TO THE DRIVERS AND HOW TO KEEP THEM COOL – THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE HOTTEST RACES THAT YOU’VE HAD SO FAR THIS SEASON. WHAT DO YOU DO EXTRA, THAT YOU CAN DO, TO COMBAT THAT?
“Luckily, I was just in Mexico for a week and it was hot down there (laughs). So I feel like I came here a little acclimated for the heat. But the reality is, I feel like every driver in the field prepares themselves for this situation. Try to get a lot of fluids. Try to do different exercises in the heat to prepare for this weekend. But it’s going to be fun. Honestly every time that we get to the summer part of the race season, I get excited because I personally try to prepare myself as good as I can to perform as good as possible in this part of the season.
I’m excited. Hopefully it gets very, very hot; and hopefully everybody gets very, very tired.”
HOW WAS THE RECEPTION FOR YOU BACK IN MEXICO GOING BACK WITH A CUP WIN?
“It was quite a special moment. It was probably the most special trip I’ve ever had to Mexico. Everybody was very, very excited for me. The people that have been with me on this journey for 10 years now in the U.S., they know how hard its been on this journey. They’ve known me when the lows were low; and known me when the highs are high. It was a lot of fun to see all the people that have stuck with me. All the people that I love. Honestly, if I could write down everything I wanted it to be for that first win, it’s exactly how it happened. So, I’m very, very blessed and very fortunate.
I enjoyed it a lot, but that’s now in the past. Now, I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
12 WINNERS IN 16 RACES – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THIS PLAYOFF FORMAT HISTORY. IT MIGHT TAKE MORE THAN ONE WIN. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT’S IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND?
“It’s not. I think that it’s very cool to see what is happening in the Playoffs right now. I feel like a big reason for this is the Next Gen car. These Next Gen cars really came to the game to change everything. The way that we work, the way that we approach things. Everyone is out there playing with pretty much the same tools and we’re seeing those results on track. You never know who’s going to be competitive. It can be a Chevy; it can be anyone really. That’s fun and I really enjoy that. Maybe I’m a little biased because we’ve been strong lately, but it’s been a lot of fun.
For me, I really try to focus on one week at a time. There is nothing I can do about Road America right now or the following race. I’m trying to put all my focus into Nashville. I take it one day at a time. I feel like we’re in a good spot. I believe that we can actually contend for more wins before the Playoffs start, so hopefully we can do that and put ourselves in a better position for the last few months of the season in the Playoffs.”
IT WASN’T ONLY YOUR FIRST WIN, BUT THE FIRST WIN FOR YOUR SPOTTER, FRANKIE KIMMEL. YOU AND FRANKIE DIDN’T REALLY KNOW EACH OTHER BEFORE YOU WERE PAIRED TOGETHER AND YOU GUYS HAVE HIT IT OFF REALLY WELL. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE WORKING WITH FRANKIE?
“Yeah, it’s been really special. I have quite a special team. And I say team because it’s everyone – Frankie (Kimmel II); Travis (Mack), my crew chief; Jose (R. Blasco-Figueroa) and Dusty (Zacharyasz), my engineers; my mechanics; pit crew and PR people. Everyone that makes Trackhouse what it is, is very special. I feel very, very proud to have such an amazing group of people around me. I was actually talking to Travis, my crew chief, on the plane back going home from Sonoma. For most of the guys on our team, it was the first win in the Cup Series in the position they have. Travis has won races in the Cup Series, but never as a crew chief. Frankie, the same thing. It’s very special because everyone now knows what it feels like. Everyone knows what it’s like to do that and what it takes. So, I feel like not just myself, but my entire team is way more relaxed and way more relieved. That’s quite exciting to know.”
YOU DON’T HAVE A NEW CONTRACT EXTENSION TO ANNOUCE, DO YOU?
“I’ve been so busy doing interviews the last week that I haven’t even had time to answer Ty Norris’s calls (laughs).”