Carl Edwards surprised the NASCAR world in early January by announcing he wouldn’t race in 2017 and saying he doesn’t plan to return to full-time racing. Though Edwards didn’t use the word “retire” and didn’t rule out a substitute opportunity if needed, it is expected that he has called it quits.
As a results of this announcement, Drive for Diversity graduate Daniel Suarez was called upon to take the wheel of the #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for 2017 and the future. Many people have wondered and talked about what to expect from the Mexico native this season. If you look at Suarez’s stats and career so far in NASCAR, all he has done is run upfront and finish consistently. Add a few wins and the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship to that resume as well. On top of those great qualities, Daniel is also jumping into a car that made the final round of the 2016 Chase for the Cup and was a restart away from being the champion.
Now, it is very very far fetched to think a guy who has never run in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event will be a championship contender, but it’s not very far fetched to think he can compete for at least a playoff spot. As noted many times by people in the sport and around it, JGR has all but passed up Hendrick Motorsports as the premier team. Running up front, competing for wins and having two horses in the final round of last year’s playoffs, Suarez is in the best spot a rookie has been in awhile.
Adding Toyota teammate Erik Jones as another rookie for 2017, we can only expect Daniel Suarez to come out of the gate and battle Jones for Rookie of the Year and a Chase spot. Having a Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott type rookie year would be the best we could ask for from Suarez, but he may just surprise us.