It may be an Olympic year without an Olympic Games, but Daniel Suárez and his No. 96 Team USA Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) will be competing with the Olympic spirit during Sunday’s South Point 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of Tokyo’s XXXII Olympiad and the 16th Summer Paralympic Games until 2021, Toyota is showcasing its proud partnership of Team USA during this weekend’s Cup Series race. The Olympic-themed paint scheme on Suárez’s Toyota features logos on the deck lid of 17 U.S. national governing bodies and high performance management organizations, whose journeys to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and beyond have been extended by a year.
As Suárez and his single-car No. 96 Team USA Toyota team return to the scene of their very first points-paying race together last February, they’ll also be paying tribute to the memory of a young cancer victim as part of this year’s Nominate a Cancer Hero program in partnership with the Martin Truex Jr., Foundation and the NASCAR Foundation. The name of 13-year-old Annie Jo Williams of Henderson, Nevada, will replace Suárez’s above the driver-side door of the No. 96 Team USA Toyota. Williams lost her battle with liver cancer on Aug. 21. She will be remembered by family and friends as a brave young girl and a forever hero.
“Daniel Suárez was her favorite driver,” said her father, Derek Brennan. “The last three races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, she had us bring him gifts and cards from her. He was always gracious and happy to receive her presents from us. It made her so happy. We can’t thank him enough for the memories. This is a wonderful way to remember her. She would just love it.”
Suárez hopes to deliver a solid result in this weekend’s 400-mile race on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval, where he recorded a 30th-place finish from the 35th starting position in February. It will be the seventh race on a mile-and-a-half track since then, and the team running its first full Cup Series schedule since joining NASCAR’s top ranks as a part-time team in 2017 has shown incremental improvement along the way. Suárez posted finishes of 26th, 23rd and 18th in his last three races on the 1.5-mile ovals at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. The latter finish is tied with the 18th-place finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in July for the young team’s best of the season.
With the men and women of Team USA riding along in spirit, and the loving memory of a young cancer hero who left an impression on so many people, Suárez and the No. 96 Toyota team for GBR are sure to leave nothing on the table in the Nevada desert in their quest to post their best finish of the season.