At this same time last year, we were uncertain where Daniel Suarez would land. Speculation was high that it would be in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Ford and as a result we ranked him 20th. Suarez’s fate is uncertain again – only this time the caliber of available rides it not quite the same. For the moment, we have him ranked 30th as a place holder.
In 2019 Suarez performed about as we expected. Ranked 20th, he finished 17th in the standings. That made him the highest finishing driver who failed to make the playoffs. At another time or with another team, that would have been enough to get him a second season with his current team, but there was another driver waiting in the wings and the clock ticked a lot faster than normal. With Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick already ensconced in rides for 2020, room had to be made for Cole Custer.
It seems highly unlikely that Suarez won’t find a place to land in the Cup series if he wants it. He reportedly has enough sponsorship in hand to be attractive to some of the moderately-funded teams – and there are some solid rides available. When Matt Tifft announced he would not race fulltime in 2020 so that he can focus on his health, that left Front Row Motorsports with two seats to fill. David Ragan announced his retirement earlier in the season.
The No. 36 team finished 2019 29th in the standings. Ragan’s No. 38 was 31st. There has also been speculation that Suarez could end up in the No. 32 with increased support from SHR. That team finished 30th.
Suarez’s previous stats are going to be fairly meaningless. His first three seasons were spent in exceptional equipment with marquee teams, but he has a chance to show perspective team owners the same kind of grit and determination that landed Matt DiBenedetto with the Wood Brothers. Wherever Suarez lands, it is likely to be with a team that is either rebuilding, or is continuing to gain in strength.
One thing the franchise system has done is to eliminate start-and-park operations. There is simply little incentive to ride around and drivers like Tifft, Ragan, and Corey LaJoie were solid values a few times last year.
These teams need to maximize their resources and for Suarez that may well mean that he needs to focus on road courses. Last year his four best efforts came on unrestricted, intermediate speedways, however. Suarez finished third in both Texas races and swept the top five at Michigan. This track type is the bread and butter of the series and even if he can earn results in the top 15, Suarez will be a solid value.
Avoid Suarez at Daytona. Even though anything can happen on that track, what often has taken place for the Mexican-born driver is an early shower after heading back to the garage on the hook.
Three Best Tracks
Watkins Glen (8.0 in 3 attempts)
Dover (8.7 in 6)
Indy (12.0 in 3)
Three Worst Tracks
Daytona (31.8 in 6)
Charlotte Roval (27.5 in 2)
Homestead (26.0 in 3)
Victories: None (Best finish = 3rd at Texas I & II)
Top-fives: 4 (.111)
Top-10s: 11 (.306)
Top-15s: 20 (.556)
2019 Finishes at or above rank = 30 (83.3%)