BROOKLYN, Mich. – According to Daniel Suarez, if you want to win races, a drastic change in behavior among competitors leaves no room for kindness on the race track.
During the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s media availability Friday at Michigan International Speedway, Suarez dove into detail regarding how much driver etiquette has changed since he first came onto the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series scene, a conversation he and Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie actually had at dinner with fellow Ford Performance drivers Thursday night.
“In today’s racing, nobody gives respect,” Suarez said. “It’s way different than two years ago. When I came to the Cup Series in 2017, everyone was very polite. In the first half of the race, if someone was faster than me, I would let the guy go. But right now, … Lap 2 … we’re driving it with everything.
“That’s how it is,” Suarez continued. “There’s just no more respect or polite drivers out there. If you’re polite, you won’t last.”
With track position at a premium based on how competitive the Cup Series field has become, Suarez noted restarts have become more aggressive, with drivers jockeying to gain every position possible.
“Everyone has to make positions,” Suarez said. “If you don’t make positions, you’re going to lose positions. You have to have that mentality.
“I’ve had a lot of good race cars in the past where I’m good on the long run, but on the restarts I’m not great,” he added. “It takes me seven laps to finally get going. In today’s racing, you can’t have that. It’s one of those things where you have to be at least decent on restarts to have a good trade off.”
Although Suarez acknowledged being nice doesn’t get you very far in today’s day and age, he’s also not complaining about it. He actually enjoys it.
“Nobody gives anyone a break,” Suarez said. “It’s very hard, but it’s fun. I like it, driving hard; I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just a different style of racing now.
“The lead cars — the guys out running the top 15, top 10 – I think it’s how it’s supposed to be. I don’t mind driving hard. That’s what we get paid for, right?”
Despite the lack of give-and-take on the race track, Suarez believes firmly in drawing a line in the sand to separate what happens on the race track from relationships in the motor coach lots.
“Personally, I try to be good with everyone, but on the race track it’s a whole different deal,” Suarez said. “There’s a lot of drivers like that. Joey Logano … he’s a great friend of mine and we get along extremely well off the race track. But when we’re on the race track, we’re always banging and hitting and talking trash on the radio. That’s how it is and that’s how I like it to be.
“It has to be that way. He (Logano) does a good job on that. He’s an extremely aggressive driver. I will say, I’m the same way. Maybe some people will say sometimes it’s too much, I prefer to be on the too much side and not too little.”
If there’s any doubt that Suarez gets a thrill out of ultra-aggressive racing and standing up to his competition, he’s quick to remind of his scuffle with Michael McDowell at ISM Raceway in March.
“Do you see when I was fighting in Phoenix, I was smiling, too,” Suarez said with a grin. “I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve been in tougher situations, believe me.”