HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – Good things come in threes. It’s an adage based on the proverbial “rule of three” that suggests things that come in threes are more satisfying, more humorous, and more effective than any other number of things.
For Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Daniel Suarez, the number four would be decidedly more satisfying when it comes to the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase for the Championship.
For the second time in 2016, Suarez will pilot the colors of Interstate Batteries when cars hit the track this weekend for the Drive Sober 200 XFINITY Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. As the founding partner and “Official Battery of JGR,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the team for 25 years. Since 1992, JGR’s first full season in NASCAR, Interstate Batteries has played an integral role in the organization’s development from start-up race team to championship powerhouse.
The exclusive list of drivers who have sported the colors of Interstate Batteries for JGR features three who went on to win NASCAR championships – Dale Jarrett in 1999, Bobby Labonte in 2000 and Kyle Busch in 2015, each winning titles in the elite Sprint Cup Series. Should Suarez run the table in the XFINITY Series version of the Chase and capture the 2016 championship, he would be the fourth of the Interstate Batteries band of brothers to win a NASCAR title.
It’s the inaugural season for the XFINITY Series Chase, which includes the series’ top -12 drivers competing in a seven-race playoff. There are three rounds in the XFINITY Series Chase and, much like what has taken place in the elite Sprint Cup Series since 2014, the field of 12 will be reduced by four at the conclusion of each of the first two rounds of three races each. The final four drivers will go to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to compete for the 2016 series championship.
A runner-up finish in the first race of the Chase last week at Kentucky Motor Speedway in Sparta has placed Suarez in a very comfortable position as the series turns its attention to this weekend’s 200-mile race at Dover.
The 24-year old driver is second in the Chase standings with a mere 15-point cushion on ninth-place. Only the top eight drivers will advance to the Round of 8 following the third race in the Round of 12 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. A win this weekend at Dover, however, would earn Suarez an automatic berth in the Round of 8.
For his part, the native of Monterrey, Mexico has displayed marked improvement at the concrete, mile oval since his debut there in 2015. Suarez made his first visit to the “Monster Mile” in the spring of 2015. He qualified fourth but struggled with the tough track, finishing the day three laps down in 19th place. He returned later in the season and earned a respectable 10th-place finish. It was earlier this year, in May, that Suarez scored his best Dover result to date when he finished ninth in a race that might have yielded more had it not been for rain that forced the race to be called 80 laps early.
Good things may come in threes. For Suarez, he’d rather go with a mindset of the more the merrier. So here’s to being a part of the final four who will compete for the 2016 XFINITY Series Championship.
Daniel Suarez, Driver of the No. 19 Interstate Batteries NASCAR XFINITY Series Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on heading to Dover this weekend?
“We have been strong pretty much every time we go to Dover with plenty of speed. With the Chase going on, it’s time to put everything together, to put some good races together and try to get a win. Dover has been a good track for me since coming into the XFINITY Series and, hopefully, we can make it a good one again in the second race of the Chase, especially with Interstate Batteries on board with us this weekend."
You’ve gotten off to a pretty good start in the Chase with the runner-up finish last week in Kentucky. How does that feel?
“I feel pretty good. Kentucky has been a really good place for us and our team and that showed Saturday. We have had plenty of speed this year and really have a shot to be competitive every single week of the Chase. We hope we can put some good races together here through these first three races and we got it started off good last week with Kentucky.”
How do you feel about the team’s preparation for the Chase?
“I feel good. We have a few cars out there that I really like a lot. Those cars are going to be rolling around through the next seven races. We are in good shape. We have done a good job of keeping ourselves out of trouble and feel like we will keep doing that. We are in a pretty good position to have great cars throughout the Chase.”
It’s early, still, but what is it like to be a part of this inaugural Chase in the XFINITY Series?
“It’s very exciting and something new for everyone. All of us – we have been in the situation where we have watched the Cup drivers go through the Chase, but we haven’t been in this situation before. I think it’s something new for everyone and it’s a lot of fun. There is more pressure on the race teams, the drivers and the pit crews. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out during these first three races because the pressure and the excitement is really going to build as it goes on.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine