DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Daniel Suarez has been the victim of bad luck recently. At Joe Gibbs Racing, he was the odd man out when JGR decided to bring on Martin Truex Jr. to the organization for the 2018 season following Furniture Row Racing’s departure from the NASCAR Cup Series. That moved him over to Stewart-Haas Racing for a one-year deal last season. Unfortunately, the funding wasn’t fully secured and SHR went with Cole Custer as his replacement.
That left Suarez without many options for the 2020 season. Most of the top rides were already taken. Luckily, Gaunt Brothers had some funding with NASCAR’s sponsors and mix that with what Suarez already had and the No. 96 Toyota would run full time for the first time ever and Suarez would be their driver.
It was a good story. The Gaunt Brothers ride didn’t have a Charter, so with 43 cars here in Daytona this weekend, we know that three cars will go home. Suarez, had to race his way into the show.
Early on in his Duel on Thursday night, Suarez looked well on his way into racing his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN). Suarez, moved up from his 19th starting spot to inside of the top 10 before the first round of pit stops ensued on Lap 24.
Unfortunately, the Ford’s decided to pit without much communication, so when they all slowed down to pit, Suarez had no where to go and got into Ryan Blaney heading into the tri-oval at the Daytona International Speedway.
“There was no communication. All the sudden the 2 car slowed down to pit and I either hit him or make a move to go around and we crashed,” a dejected Suarez said. “I just want to go home.”
The Ford’s admitted it was a bad mistake on their end too. Credit that to spotty internet here in Daytona at the race track and the newness of the crew chief and driver changes at Penske for 2020.
“That was dumb on my part trying to pit,” Blaney said of the incident. “I didn’t know we were pitting.”
His crew chief Todd Gordon took responsibility for that incident too.
“Yeah we didn’t communicate that well as a group. The internet down here is suspect at best.”
In turn, it leaves Suarez out of the Daytona 500 for the first time of his career as his storybook movie comes to an end early. Remember, Penske announced just this past Januray that they’re going to change crew chiefs for all three drivers. That move could have cost Suarez a Daytona 500 start. The communication isn’t quite there yet and it showed on their first pit stop of the Duels.