Joe Gibbs Racing, like many other organizations in NASCAR, is going through a youth phase. It started last year, when veteran Carl Edwards unexpectedly retired, and Daniel Suarez was forced (almost prematurely) into the #19 Toyota. And it’s being completed (for now) this season, as Erik Jones is taking the place of Matt Kenseth in the #20 Toyota. Now, Joe Gibbs Racing has a couple of proven veterans–Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin–to help the two “young guns”–Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones–really progress and become great drivers in NASCAR’s top series.
Cup Series History
All things considered, Daniel Suarez had a pretty damn good rookie year. Remember, he didn’t know that he was going to be driving in the Monster Energy Cup Series until January last year. In Suarez’s first full year in NASCAR’s top series, though, he showed some improvement as the season went on–his average finish in the first half of the season was 16.2 while it was 15.7 in the second half–and, more importantly, finished most of the races; Daniel did have six DNFs but he completed over 95% of the laps ran in 2017.
Predictions for the Upcoming Season
Looking at 2017, one thing that sticks out is that Daniel Suarez found success at a wide range of tracks: he has top 10s at multiple 1.5-mile tracks, as well as the short tracks at Dover and Bristol, and then on the flat tracks as well–no matter what the size; Suarez had solid finishes at both Indianapolis and Pocono, as well as at Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond as well. Being able to do that as a rookie is impressive enough, but if Suarez is able to improve a little bit during his sophomore year, this #19 Toyota could get back to Carl Edwards levels sooner than many people thought.
Overall Expectations: Daniel Suarez finished 20th in the points in his first full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and a big reason why is because he lacked finishes close to the front; yes, the #19 Toyota came home inside the top 10 in 12 of the 36 races last year (33%), but Suarez had just one top 5 result, which was a 3rd-place finish at Watkins Glen. With a full year under his belt, though, you can expect to post a few more top 5s during the 2018 season and probably get those top 10 results up into the upper teens.
Can Daniel Suarez win a Cup Series race in 2018? Probably not. You can’t just go from having one top 5 finish in a full season to challenging for wins. With that being said, if some of those top 10s from last year could turn into top 5s, you never really know how everything is going to play out. A couple drivers running out of fuel while Suarez is running 3rd could put him in the cat bird’s seat on race day.
Daniel Suarez as a Fantasy Option in 2018
DraftKings: The problem with Daniel Suarez as an option in DraftKings–and it’s the same with many Toyota drivers–is that he tends to qualify pretty well (Suarez had an average starting spot of 13.9 last year) but doesn’t rack up many dominator points. When you add in the fact that Suarez isn’t in the lower tier of pricing, it comes few and far between on when you can use him in DraftKings.
Season-Long Salary Cap Games: There’s no doubt that Daniel Suarez has the equipment to put up a really good season. Where there lies doubt is whether or not he is going to go to the “next level” here in 2018. In most season-long salary cap games, Suarez is going to be priced very closely to his new teammate, Erik Jones, and if you have to pick between the two, Jones seems like the obvious choice–even with his tendency to crash out of a lot of races.