HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – There is a level of comfort that can be derived from being back on familiar ground. It’s that very premise that serves as the theme to the Gene Autry classic “Back in the Saddle Again.”
And that’s exactly where Daniel Suarez will find himself this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A quick look back to one year ago and it’s immediately obvious that, for Suarez, there isn’t much that is the same. Last year at this time, the Monterrey, Mexico native had just embarked on his second full season of NASCAR XFINITY Series competition and was still trying to score his first career win in the series. In the 12 months that have followed, he’s not only scored his first series win, he visited victory lane a total of three times and won the 2016 XFINITY Series championship. And during the offseason it was announced that Suarez would replace retiring driver Carl Edwards as driver of the No. 19 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota.
This weekend, however, Suarez will find himself back in familiar territory as he is set to pilot the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas.
As the founding partner and “Official Battery of Joe Gibbs Racing,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the team for more than 25 years. And this year the Dallas-based company its 65th anniversary. To celebrate, the brand will include special 65th Anniversary branding on each of the paint schemes that JGR will race during the 2017 NASCAR season.
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 names that have piloted the brand’s colors is replete with Hall of Fame, championship and race-winning drivers including Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Having flown the famed green and white colors in a pair of races during his 2016 championship campaign, Suarez is the most recent member of the Interstate Batteries Racing “band of brothers” to add the title champion to his resume. And now he’s looking for more.
It all begins in Las Vegas as the reigning champ aims to add to his Interstate Batteries Racing legacy beginning with this weekend’s 300-mile race, the first of three XFINITY Series events in which the Texas-based company will serve as primary for Suarez with races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and Dover (Delaware) International Speedway to follow.
First up, however, is the 1.5-mile oval located in the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” It’s a track at which Suarez has found moderate success in two career XFINITY Series starts. He finished 10th in his first race at Las Vegas in 2015 but finished a close second to teammate Kyle Busch last season.
This weekend Suarez will aim to up the ante one spot as he climbs back in the saddle of the Interstate Batteries Toyota.
Daniel Suarez, Driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries NASCAR XFINITY Series Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on racing in Las Vegas this weekend?
“Las Vegas is one of the places I really enjoy racing. I love being out west and this is the start of the West Coast swing. I look forward to those three races and we have a lot of support out there. We were second to Kyle (Busch) at Las Vegas last year but ran out of laps. This will be my first time working with Christ Gabehart (crew chief) and the No. 20 team – just looking forward to it.”
What challenges does Las Vegas present?
“Well, it is much more like a lot of the 1.5-milers and I think it will be a really good test for us to see where our program is on those types of tracks. That’s going to be a really good test for this team. Just knowing how good we were on those tracks the last half of last year gets me really excited for what could be ahead for us this weekend.”
What does it mean to you to have the Interstate Batteries colors on your car this weekend?
“Interstate Batteries is a great partner to JGR and they are very supportive of me and our team. I was fortunate to have them on board with us last year. When we won at Dover, they were with us so, hopefully, we can do that again this weekend in Las Vegas. They have meant a lot to Joe Gibbs and the whole race team and being where we are today. I’m just super excited to have them on board this weekend.”
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