Racing is a momentum sport and no one has more of that right now than Daniel Suárez.
The Drive for Diversity product out of Monterrey, Mexico, opened the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season just as he ended the 2013 edition – at the front of the field.
Over the final eight K&N East events of last season, the NASCAR Next driver scored six top-three finishes including his first series victory on July 13 at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway. His average finish over the span was 4.5. Take away an 18th-place showing at Virginia International Raceway, where he succumbed to engine problems while leading the race, and the number drops to 2.57. Factor in the two wins to start this season and the number moves to an average finish of 3.8 over his last 10 series starts. The average result for his 10 outings prior to that was 13.7.
“It comes down to communication,” said Suárez. “With English being my second language, I’m sure that’s part of it, but I think it’s more than that. My crew chief Skip Eyler and I are really on the same page. The crew has worked really hard to get the car just right. I’m just really happy to be in this position right now and will work hard to make it continue.”
The K&N East streak is just part of the story for Suárez, who has a string of four consecutive NASCAR touring series triumphs with wins in his last two NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series races dating back to last year’s season finale.
“Both series are important to me,” Suárez said. “Winning at home is always special and winning in the K&N East is great because it is so hard to do. There are probably 16 or so cars that can win at every race (in the K&N Pro Series East).”
In two starts, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway – the site of the PittLite 125 on Saturday, March 15 – hasn’t been very kind to the 22-year-old. He finished 15th in his track debut in 2012 and 26th last season.
“It’s not a place where I’ve done very well, but I definitely love racing there,” he said. “We’re definitely looking forward to it and hope to change our luck there.”
With an early 18-point advantage over Lee Pulliam in the championship standings, Suárez is attempting to bring Rev Racing its second series crown in three seasons. Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson drove to the K&N East title in 2012.
The Race: The PittLite 125 is the third event of the season for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It’s the third of 14 oval track events and 16 races, overall, on the 2014 schedule. This is the series’ third visit to iconic high-banked Tennessee oval.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining four starting spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 125 laps covering 66.625 miles with a break at or near the conclusion of Lap 70.
The Track: Bristol Motor Speedway opened in 1961 and hosted its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 30, 1961 won by Jack Smith. The .533-mile concrete oval has 600-foot staightaways with five to nine degrees of banking on the frontstretch and four to eight degrees on the backstretch. The turns are progressively banked from 24 to 28 degrees. The racing surface is 40 feet wide.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the series at Bristol of 15.898 seconds (120.694 mph) is held by Michael McGuire and established on March 16, 2013. The 125-lap race record of 1 hour, 2 minutes, 6 seconds (65.402 mph) was set on March 17, 2012 by Nelson Piquet Jr. in a race that was extended to 127 laps.
BRISTOL RACE NOTES
A First For Triumphant Gladiator: The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East field rolls into “The Last Great Colosseum” with each driver hoping to add a Bristol victory to their résumé. The victor will be a first-time winner at the Tennessee track with the two previous series winners – Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012) and Dylan Kwasniewski (2013) not in the field. Eight drivers on the entry list, led by Eddie MacDonald with six, have K&N East wins to their credit while two others have K&N West victories on their list of racing accomplishments.
Elite List: With a K&N Pro Series West win on Feb. 27 at Phoenix International Raceway, Cole Custer becomes the ninth driver to win points races in both East and West series. The other eight are Chuck Bown, Ricky Craven, Brian Ickler, Kwasniewski, Joey Logano, Andrew Ranger, Ken Schrader and Peyton Sellers. Custer is seeking his third career K&N East win in the PittLite 125.
So Far; So Good: The transition from NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models to K&N Pro Series East cars has been fairly seamless for two-time and reigning weekly series national champion Lee Pulliam. The Semora, N.C., driver has posted top-five finishes in each of his first two K&N East outings. Pulliam, last year, joined the late Larry Phillips (5) and Philip Morris (4) as the only multi-time national champions in the 32-year history of the grassroots series.
Big Machine Garbo: Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender David Garbo Jr. added country music powerhouse Big Machine Records as the primary sponsor on his No. 1 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota. The label’s CEO and founder Scott Borchetta is a former racing competitor and champion at Nashville’s Tennessee State Fairgrounds Speedway.
Welcome Aboard: United Mining Equipment, a global supplier of industrial and mining lights, is a new partner for Bristol Motor Speedway and sponsor of the PittLite 125. “We are pleased to be associated with Bristol Motor Speedway and the K&N Series race,” said Don Simms, UME president and CEO. “We look forward to building this new relationship. We are excited about the PittLite 125 and have some special promotions planned for that weekend as well.”
LAST TIME OUT: UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway
Daniel Suárez extended his NASCAR touring series winning streak to three after holding off Austin Hill to win the first standalone NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at Daytona. Ben Rhodes won his first series career pole position.
• Suárez became just the second driver in series history to win the first two points races of the season joining Sean Caisse, who accomplished the feat first in 2006 with wins at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway and Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
• Three – Hill, Nick Drake and Lee Pulliam – of the top-five UNOH Battle At The Beach finishers are Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders. Pulliam has the early advantage over Drake and Daytona pole sitter Ben Rhodes in the rookie standings with a pair of top-five efforts to open the year.
• Bill McAnally Racing, a stalwart team in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, expanded eastward this season and scored a pair of top-five finishes at Daytona with Brandon McReynolds (3rd) and Drake (4th). McReynolds will race for the K&N West championship while Drake will battle fulltime for the K&N East crown.
NEXT TIME OUT: Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway
The first of two trips to Greenville Pickens Speedway is set for Saturday, March 22 for the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150. Brandon Gdovic scored his first series win last year in this event at the historic half-mile track followed by Jeremy Burns and Kenzie Ruston. The third-place finish by Ruston is the best in series history for a female driver.