LONG POND, Pa. — Daniel Suarez hasn’t finished in the top 10 in nine straight NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series races, but the second-year Joe Gibbs Racing driver feels like he has the speed to get back on track this weekend in the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Suarez was eighth-fastest at 173.160 miles per hour in the first practice Saturday morning and 20th at 172.755 miles per hour in the second and final afternoon practice.
“I think it’s a better race car than the last time I was here,” Suarez said, referring to his 24th-place finish at the track earlier in the season. “I’m happy about it. We have to keep working on it and, hopefully, we can get a little more speed.
“I feel like, by now, we have a better base than last time. That’s always helpful. We didn’t have a whole lot of practice. So it’s really important to unload from the truck with a good base.”
Suarez hasn’t finished in the top 10 since his third-place showing at Dover back in May, which capped a streak of three straight top 10s.
He also sits 20th in the standings, well out of the top 16 (163 points behind), so if he wants to advance his championship hopes into the playoffs, he’ll likely need to snag a win over the next six races.
In three Pocono races, Suarez has an average finish of 15.5, including a seventh-place run in the race a year ago.
“I feel like this racetrack has been pretty good to me,” Suarez said. “So hopefully we can have a good clean race, a whole race with the speed we’ve had today.”