HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Daniel Suarez met with reporters Friday for the first time since it was revealed he wouldn’t be back with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Suarez will be replaced by Cole Custer after spending the 2019 season aboard the No. 41 Ford Mustang, leaving the surprised driver searching for a ride for the second time in as many years.
“It was a surprise,” Suarez told reporters at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I was as shocked as you guys are probably right now, just a couple of nights ago. I am a little disappointed. A lot of people have worked very hard on this team to try to put everything together, and unfortunately it wasn’t enough. We needed a few months. We had to find a big amount of money to keep the ride for next year. My group of people, friends and a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing went to work, and we actually did a pretty good job. We pretty much got the goal, but unfortunately part of the money wasn’t on the table at this point. It was going to come a few months later and it wasn’t enough.
“It’s a little unfortunate, but it is what it is. (When) one door closes, another door opens.”
Suarez had been confident in recent weeks that he would be back in the No. 41 for another year, but noted that the sticking point in terms of him remaining in that car was team co-owner Gene Haas.
“I had been talking with most of (the media) for the last few weeks and I’m pretty sure that most everyone saw me (as) very confident because I knew where we were. I was 95 percent sure that we were in,” Suarez explained. “I thought we were in good shape. So I was extremely surprised. … It was disappointing to see (the outcome) because Tony Stewart was pushing for me so hard, along with Brett Frood and a lot of people within Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with (Gene) Haas.”
Though Suarez is back on the job hunt again, he said that he’s going to do all he can to enjoy this weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 400 before his focus turns toward 2020 and what’s next for him.
He also noted that he’ll fight through this adversity just as he did before coming to Stewart-Haas.
“I am pretty strong. I have had a lot of sacrifices in my life to be here,” Suarez said. “Not just when I came here to the U.S., but even before that, to stay in racing and to do a lot of different things. As many people know, I don’t come from a race family or from a lot of money or have a lot of contacts or anything like that. I am here because of myself.
“This has been tough. It is not fun to be in this position,” Suarez added. “I feel like I am strong and it has been a little difficult the last 24 hours. I couldn’t believe (what happened) because we did find a big amount of money, but this is the position we are in now. I think good things happen to good people, and I am sure good things are going to line up for me.”
Speaking earlier in the day to media during the Championship 4 owners’ press conference, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart was appreciative of Suarez’s time with the team and expressed a desire to continue working with him in some capacity if a solution could be worked out to do so.
“We still want to try to figure out how to help Daniel. I think he deserves to be in the Cup Series,” said Stewart. “It’s just a matter of how we fit it all in. When you’ve got a feeder series and you’ve got your own program to work young drivers up through there, sometimes you get in scenarios like this where you’ve got more drivers than you have cars.
“It’s a tough spot to be in for us as management, but like I said, we’re going to try to work with Daniel and see if we can find a solution to keep him in our system and hopefully get him back in a car one day.”
To his credit, Suarez lauded Stewart’s efforts to try and keep him within the fold.
“Tony is a great guy. In the last six months, I have learned that he is a very good friend,” Suarez said. “In the last week I have been talking to him a lot. He was talking to a lot of people and he was pushing very hard for me. Unfortunately the (No.) 41 team, and especially that car, he just doesn’t have a lot that he can do with that car because the (No.) 41 is not his car.
“He pushed. I am sure that he pushed as hard as he could, like a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing did. It just didn’t work out.”
As for what’s next for him, Suarez isn’t sure at this juncture, though both Stewart and Ford officials said Friday they want to do what they can to try and keep the Mexican-born driver in their circles.
“(Tony) is trying to help me stay in the family. I don’t know what I am going to do yet. There are a lot of things going through my head right now … but I don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to be here, but that is the way it is.
“Now I have to get back on my feet and find the best option for myself.”