Today. Tomorrow. Toyota Racing: Daniel Suárez Alsco Uniforms 500k at Charlotte Preview

MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (May 25, 2020) – Daniel Suárez and the red, white and blue No. 96 Today. Tomorrow. Toyota Camry team for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) can’t wait to get back to the 1.5-mile Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway oval for Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Alsco Uniforms 500k after an admittedly frustrating run in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.

 

Their sixth race together Sunday night – and third since the season resumed after a 70-day shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic – netted a 29th-place finish. That wouldn’t normally be cause for concern for a small, one-car team that’s tackling the entire Cup Series schedule for the first time in its 10-year history in NASCAR. But a series of mishaps, which included a penalty for a crewman over the wall too early, another penalty for speeding on pit road, a stuck lug nut on a green-flag pit stop, and a fueling issue that negated a planned strategy call midrace, left the team wondering what might have been with its patriotic-schemed Toyota that its driver said had so much more potential.

 

Thank goodness for second chances as Suárez and his teammates will get to find out during Wednesday night’s 500-kilometer event that will feel like a sprint race just three days removed from Sunday night’s 600-mile marathon. Last week, between their back-to-back races just down the road at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Suárez and crew chief Dave Winston put their heads together and returned to the tricky, 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval with a Toyota that felt far better in Wednesday night’s race than it did the previous Sunday.

 

This Wednesday night, they’ll look to once again show that kind of marked improvement in the performance of their Today. Tomorrow. Toyota Camry, eliminate the kind of mishaps that hampered their efforts Sunday night, and put themselves in position to better their best finish this season of 21st, which came March 8 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

Daniel Suárez: Driver of the No. 96 Today. Tomorrow. Toyota. Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing:
 

How are you and the team feeling about heading back to the Charlotte oval after Sunday’s night’s Coca-Cola 600?

“It’s always good to go back a second time, but it’s the last time we’re going to do it as far as the schedule is now, so we can’t get used to that. The goal is to be as prepared as possible for the first time you race at a track because we won’t have those second races after this. We all know what we have to do to be better prepared, to do a better job with simulation, and better preparation at the shop. Sunday night was very frustrating. We had some issues on pit road – a lot of mistakes – and we all know we need to minimize our mistakes because I felt our Today. Tomorrow. Toyota had the potential to be in the top-25. We’ve been breaking down every aspect of Sunday night’s race and are working on bringing a little better speed for Wednesday night – that, and minimizing mistakes.”

 

Do you expect it to be a totally different kind of race as it’s about half the distance you covered on Sunday night?

“It might be, but personally, I will treat it the same. I was being aggressive for 600 miles on Sunday night, just as I would be aggressive in a 300-mile race. It’s just the way I am. If I see an opportunity, I’m going to take it.”

 

It will be your fourth racing event operating under what might be called, for now at least, the temporary new normal with no fans, health screenings, etc. How has it been for you and the team?

“Having no fans there, I hope we never get used to that. Honestly, it’s not fun to race without fans all around. It still feels weird to show up at the track the way it has been so far. But obviously a lot of people are watching us on TV and that’s a really good thing because we can’t have fans in the stands. But as drivers, and especially in our sport, we’re all about the fans and the sponsors and we’re looking forward to the day when they will be back out there with us.”

 

Dave Winston, Crew Chief of the No. 96 Today. Tomorrow. Toyota. Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing:
 

Your assessment of Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 and what you might expect as you head back to Charlotte Wednesday night?

“On a positive note, I felt like, especially on restarts, it was pretty fun to watch for a while and gave me hope that we have some speed in our Toyota, and then we could work on getting it better on the long runs. But we had issues where we ended up hurting ourselves, whether it was a bad stop, being over the wall too early and having to start at the back, Daniel sliding the tires and coming in too fast and then having to do a pass-through. There was a time where I felt like if it could go wrong, it did. Last week at Darlington, we went back the second time with a better car than we had in the first race, so the goal is to do the same this week, and also to not make the mistakes we did on Sunday night. It’ll be another night race and the track should be really good since it’ll be the fourth straight day of racing there, and the weather should be close to the same as Sunday.”

 

After a night like Sunday night, do you have to dig deep to remind yourself this is a long-term project and to keep everybody feeling positive?

“You always want to be positive and I think everybody is. Nobody’s giving up, there’s no question about that. We showed up with a lot of confidence because we did a simulation test for qualifying and we felt we would qualify in the top-20. That didn’t happen, so we immediately went into recovery mode, trying to see what we had to do to get the splitter off the track. It was humbling. That’s a good word for it. Reality set in after there was huge optimism for 36 hours, and all it took was a 31-second lap to change that optimism. We’ve been poring over the data, trying to figure out how to fix what went wrong, then what we can do to make the car better – things on the aero side, things to increase the performance side of the car. Daniel talks about this car having so much more potential. When he feels there’s more in the car, that’s always a good thing. We went to Darlington and felt there was more potential in the car after the first race. We went back and it was better in the second race. That’s the goal this week.”

 

No. 96 Today. Tomorrow. Toyota. Camry (Red, White & Blue Edition) Team Report
Race 8 of 36 – Alsco Uniforms 500k – Charlotte
 
Car No. 96: Today. Tomorrow. Toyota Camry (Red, White & Blue Edition)

PR Contact: Laz Denes with True Speed Communication (Laz.Denes@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)

Primary Team:

 

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

Over-The-Wall Crew:

 

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

 
Alsco Uniforms 500k Notes of Interest:

 

  • After piloting the No. 19 NASCAR Cup Series Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017 and 2018, then the No. 41 Cup Series entry for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2019, Suárez joined the single-car No. 96 Toyota Camry effort for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) for the full 2020 season.
  • Suárez will be attempting to make his 115th career NASCAR Cup Series start in Wednesday night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway oval. He has career totals of eight top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and 241 laps led, with an average start of 16.1 and an average finish of 17.5. He also has qualified on the pole twice.
  • In five previous Cup Series outings on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval, Suárez has a best start of sixth in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 in his Stewart-Haas Racing entry, and a best finish of sixth in the fall 2017 race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. His average Charlotte oval start is 17.4 and average finish is 15.6.
  • Suárez has a pair of top-fives and another pair of top-10 finishes in five career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte. He qualified on the pole and led 111 laps before finishing eighth in the fall 2017 race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and has a best finish of third in the fall 2016 race en route to that year’s Xfinity Series championship.
  • In his lone career NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series race at Charlotte, Suárez started seventh, led six laps and finished 23rd in his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra in the spring 2016 race.
  • Crew chief Dave Winston, a native of Miami, Florida, and a veteran of 66 Cup Series races atop the pit box, has called the shots at four previous races at Charlotte. Prior to Sunday’s night’s 29th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, he collaborated with driver Alex Bowman in the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota in the spring 2014 race, starting 29th and finishing 33rd. The duo came back for the fall 2014 race and started 33rd and finished 30th. His driver Michael McDowell started 32nd and finished 34th in the spring 2016 race driving the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing entry.
  • On May 11, GBR announced the addition of longtime motorsports veteran Nick Ollila as technical director. The native of Warren, Michigan, will oversee the team’s engineering department and returns to the United States after a three-year stint serving in the same capacity with Kelly Racing in the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship. Ollila and team owner Marty Gaunt first worked together in 1997 when the two were at Kranefuss-Haas Racing. Their NASCAR paths crossed again 10 years later when both worked at Red Bull Racing – Gaunt as general manager and Ollila as chief aerodynamicist. NASCAR is where Ollila has spent the bulk of his career, which includes being the drivetrain specialist at Rod Osterlund Racing in 1980 when Dale Earnhardt won the first of his seven Cup Series championships. Ollila’s racing career began at Team Penske in 1972 as a mechanic. He prepared cars for each of the series in which the organization competed, a lineup that included IndyCar, NASCAR, Can-AmFormula 5000, sports cars and Formula One. NASCAR became Ollila’s focus in late 1976. He joined DiGard Racing as the team’s drivetrain specialist, working with NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip until the end of the 1978 season, whereupon he went to work for Osterlund. IndyCar and Penske beckoned in 1982, and Ollila returned as the team’s engine builder, enjoying four championships (1982, 1983, 1985 and 1988) and four Indianapolis 500 victories (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988). That Penske connection led Ollila back to NASCAR in 1990, when he became the lead engineer for Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace. It was the beginning of a 20-year stint in NASCAR.
  • Wednesday night marks the fourth Cup Series start on the Charlotte oval for the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Toyota. Prior to Sunday’s Xth-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, driver Parker Kligerman drove to 27th-place finish from the 32nd starting position there in the 2018 Coca-Cola 600, and to a 26th-place finish from the 34th starting position in last year’s Coca-Cola 600.
  • Coca-Cola and CommScope continue their respective partnerships with Suárez at Gaunt Brothers Racing. The iconic Coca-Cola brand has been with Suárez since 2015 when he won the Xfinity Series rookie-of-the-year title. CommScope, a leader in communication network technology, has been with Suárez through its ARRIS and Ruckus Networks brands since 2014, when he first competed in the Xfinity Series.

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