Daniel Suárez pressing reset on rookie NASCAR season with new crew chief
While Daniel Suárez expected a tremendous challenge in his rookie Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, he never could have predicted something as radical as a crew chief change just five weeks into the year.
But that’s exactly what happened this week when Dave Rogers took an indefinite leave of absence from Joe Gibbs Racing. On the bright side, JGR simply promoted Scott Graves from the Xfinity Series, considering he led Suárez to a championship in that division last season.
That said, the entire process was an unexpected shock to the 25-year-old.
“Well it was a surprise for me as well,” Suárez said on Friday in the media center at Martinsville Speedway. “I respect Dave’s decision to do this and to try to take care of his personal stuff.
“You know, with the Cup schedule, as busy as it is, sometimes it’s difficult to do both things at the same time. I have a lot of respect for Dave. He’s a great guy, a great crew chief. I know how hard he wants to be at the racetrack. It’s pretty much what he’d been working hard his entire life and the only thing I can do is wish him the best. I hope that he comes back soon.”
Suárez just doesn’t know exactly when that will be.
“The truth is that I don’t really know,” Suárez said. “I wish I knew, but I don’t really know myself. … I can tell you that he wishes he was here. I wish him the best with whatever decision he is making. I just hope that he comes back soon to do whatever that he loves to do — that is being in the races and being at the race track every weekend just like myself.”
Meanwhile, Suárez said he had a degree of input over who would replace Rogers, even if Graves was pretty much the consistent first pick. Suárez isn’t sure how long this pairing will last, but he seemed pretty confident at the track that it would last the duration of his rookie season.
“I know what he can do,” Suárez said of his new crew chief. “I know what we’ve done together. It was important for me to put somebody there that I knew already. Really, Scott is the person. I don’t really know what is going to be the plan for the future.
“I’m guessing that maybe Scott is going to stay there for the whole year but I don’t really know. I guess we’re going to move as we go.”
Suárez entered the weekend 19th in the championship standings and has already suffered another setback. He destroyed his primary car after backing it into the Turn 3 wall in practice.
Such circumstances have become the norm for Suarez, who felt like he had started to build momentum with Rogers before his departure. Now it seems he’s having to press reset on his young Cup career.
“I felt like for sure I was getting to a point with Dave where we were kind of slowly making that chemistry and communication,” Suárez said. “Making those clicks. It’s never good when you’re in that spot of knowing each other and then we have to split.
“The good thing is that I know Scott very well and he knows me very well … He knows what I need to be fast. He knows my weak points as well. I think having Scott jump into the Cup program I think is important. And I hope we don’t have to get back any. I hope we stay the same or even (move) forward. And try to move from there. Luckily we got a great group of guys that are supporting Scott and myself and everything we need to try to move forward, because we don’t have any time to lose right now racing every week.”