It’s time for a little change of scenery for Daniel Suárez and the No. 96 It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry team for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR). After four races in the Carolinas during an 11-day stretch that ended a 70-day hiatus for the NASCAR Cup Series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll take to the concrete, high-banked, half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval for the some short-track racing.
Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500 marks the ninth race of 2020 for the Cup Series competitors and the fifth since the suspended schedule was resumed April 17 with the first of two consecutive races at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota finished 25th in NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington, and followed it up with a 27th-place finish three days later in the first Wednesday-night Cup Series race in 36 years. They then moved to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for last Sunday night’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend Coca-Cola 600, followed by Thursday’s night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k, netting 28th-place results in both.
The fifth Cup Series race in the last two weeks takes Suárez and his It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry – a nod to its partner’s Parts & Service heritage – to one of his more successful racetracks. His history on the Bristol oval began in 2012 with his first of three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East outings – all in Toyota equipment. Suárez also has a pair of Bristol starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, six in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and six in the Cup Series. In his most recent Truck Series outing, he started second and led 77 laps before an accident ended his day 16 laps from the finish. His five top-six finishes in six Xfinity Series starts are highlighted by runner-up finishes to Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, respectively, in April 2015 and August 2017.
In last year’s two Bristol Cup Series races, Suárez brought home finishes of eighth in both, driving the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing entry, and he almost added another top-10 when he drove his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to an 11th-place finish there in April 2018. His average Cup Series finish at Bristol is 13.0, his average start 17.7. But Suárez will have to work hard to make forward progress from the wave of the green flag Sunday as he’ll start 37th on a grid for which the top 36 positions – all reserved for chartered teams – were decided Friday by random draw, and positions 37 through 40 – all non-chartered teams – lined up by car owner points.
No matter, Suárez is at his most comfortable when the battle is toughest, and he and his teammates look forward to the typical 500 laps of beating and banging among 40 competitors fighting for position in the tight quarters of the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway oval on Sunday afternoon in the hills of East Tennessee.
Daniel Suárez: Driver of the No. 96 It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing:
You’re coming off a pair of 28th-place finishes at Charlotte and are headed to Bristol. Your thoughts?
“Right now, it’s all about taking baby steps – baby steps. Obviously we have a lot of work to do to get where we are going and it’s not going to happen all in one race. It’s a process and it will continue to be a process until we get there. Everyone knows we started out behind in a lot of areas. We just need time. We need races. We need practice. We need a lot of things and we continue to work very hard. We’re not in the best position, but that is why we are all here, to try to do each of our jobs the best we can and to keep making our cars better and better. We have done a good job of keeping the cars in one piece and we continue to develop what we have.”
Bristol is one of your best tracks, results-wise, since you started racing there in the K&N East Series back in 2012. How do you like racing there?
“I like Bristol a lot. It’s a fun place to race – a lot of fun. When the stands are filled with fans, it’s one of the most exciting tracks we go to. It will be strange to race there with no fans. Like I said at Darlington and Charlotte, I hope it’s not something we get used to because we’re all about the fans. Bristol is especially fun when you have a fast racecar. We’ve been working hard to show up with a setup on our It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota that is as good as possible and will make it fun for us on Sunday.”
You’ve normally started closer to the front at Bristol, but this time you’ll have to start 37th as the first of the non-chartered teams. How big of a challenge will that be?
“Starting 37th is a huge disadvantage at Bristol, but it is what it is. You start the race and you’re already half a lap down. I think it will be an even bigger challenge because we will not have practice and no qualifying. We’ll just do everything we can with what we have to work with and the challenges that we face and try and keep taking baby steps forward.”
No. 96 It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry Team Report
Race 9 of 36 – Supermarket Heroes 500 – Bristol
Car No. 96: It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry
PR Contact: Laz Denes with True Speed Communication (Laz.Denes@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Driver: Daniel Suárez
Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico
Crew Chief: Dave Winston
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Technical Director: Nick Ollila
Hometown: Warren, Michigan
Car Chief: Mark Hillman
Hometown: Lockport, New York
Engine Specialist: Kirk Butterfield
Hometown: Carrollton, Ohio
Engine Builder: Toyota Racing Development
Headquarters: Costa Mesa, California
Spotter: Steve Barkdoll
Hometown: Garrison, Iowa
Gas Man: Cory White
Hometown: Vinson, Iowa
Front Tire Changer: Mike Mead
Hometown: Sherrills Ford, North Carolina
Rear Tire Changer: Brandon Traino
Hometown: Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Tire Carrier: Mason Harris
Hometown: Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
Jackman: Joel Bouagnon
Hometown: St. Charles, Illinois
Windshield: Mark Hillman
Hometown: Lockport, New York
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!