HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Following Carl Edwards’ departure announcement on Wednesday morning, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Daniel Suarez will move up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full-time this year, filling the seat of the No. 19 Toyota.
Suarez replaces Edwards at JGR, after the Missouri native’s second season with the team nearly resulted in a Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year.
Team owner Joe Gibbs admitted that Edwards’ decision was unexpected, but was gracious and thankful for the time Edwards spent working with the organization.
“Certainly this was not something that we were expecting as we prepared for the 2017 season,” Gibbs said. “However, it was clear in our conversations with Carl that he had given this careful consideration and believes strongly that it is the direction he needs to go in.”
“We support him in that. We loved having him be part of our team the past two years and we will miss him, but we hope he is happy in whatever is next for his life.”
Suarez, 25, moves up to the Cup level for his rookie year in the wake of his first NASCAR title, earned by virtue of a stirring victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the XFINITY championship race in November.
Gibbs added that Suarez’s resume, combined with his work with No. 19 team sponsor ARRIS and the JGR organization, made the decision of who to fill Edwards’ seat an easy one.
“Once we learned that Carl would not return next season, Daniel was really the obvious choice,” Gibbs said. “He had an unbelievable year in XFINITY. He is a great fit for our team and our partners. … Yes, it’s earlier than we anticipated, but he has earned the opportunity and we are excited for his future.”
A humbled Suarez was appreciative of the opportunity he has been presented with for the coming season, after becoming the first NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series graduate to win a NASCAR national series title last year.
“It’s truly amazing,” Suarez said of his Cup chance. “This has been my dream, but I was not expecting to be in this position right now. It’s hard to believe, but I can’t wait to get started. I know that it won’t be easy and that I have a lot to learn but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. It’s just an amazing team and I feel like it’s the perfect place to be for a rookie like me.”
“I’m hungry to learn and to go out and perform well (in 2017). Thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing for believing in me and trusting a kid from Mexico who didn’t speak English at the start. I can’t wait to drive that car. I wish I could take it into the street right now,” he laughed.
Industry veteran Dave Rogers, who served as Edwards’ crew chief this season with the No. 19 team, will be Suarez’s crew chief for his rookie campaign.
Suarez scored three wins, three poles, 19 top-fives and 27 top-10s in the XFINITY Series last year en route to the title.
The Monterrey, Mexico native will contend against former XFINITY teammate Erik Jones, who is driving for JGR satellite team Furniture Row Racing, for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors at the Cup level in 2017.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
Email Race Chaser Online: [email protected]
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews