Gaunt Brothers Racing signs Daniel Suarez for 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season

Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Tuesday that Daniel Suarez will be the driver of the team’s No. 96 Toyota for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

The move ends an offseason of uncertainty for Suarez, who was released by Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2019 season. The transition also places the 28-year-old Mexican driver back in the Toyota fold after one year with Ford backing.

RELATED: Catch up on key offseason moves

“It’s great to be back with Toyota and back in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said the 28-year-old Suarez, who was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico and now calls Huntersville, North Carolina, home. “My NASCAR career started off really well and Toyota was a very big part of that. To have them in my corner again gives me a lot of confidence. Gaunt Brothers Racing has something to prove and so do I. We’re committed to each other and we’re going to build each other up.”

Suarez enters his fourth Cup Series season in 2020. In two years for Joe Gibbs Racing and one for Stewart-Haas, he has scored eight top-five finishes and two Busch Pole Awards. Suarez also has four national series wins and won the Xfinity Series championship in 2016.

Coca-Cola and CommScope will continue their respective partnerships with Suarez at Gaunt Brothers Racing. The iconic Coca-Cola brand has been with Suarez since 2015 when he won the Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor. CommScope, a leader in communication network technology, has been with Suarez through its ARRIS and Ruckus Networks brands since 2014 when he first competed in the Xfinity Series.

Dave Winston will serve as Suarez’s crew chief. The NASCAR veteran comes to Gaunt Brothers Racing from Richard Childress Racing, where he was vehicle performance group engineer and also the race engineer for driver Daniel Hemric. Winston has served as a crew chief before, spending 2014 at BK Racing with driver Alex Bowman and 2016 at Leavine Family Racing with driver Michael McDowell. Winston has a degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University.

Suarez’s first competitive outing with Gaunt Brothers Racing comes Feb. 9 with Daytona 500 qualifying starting at 12:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on FOX. His lap will determine his starting spot in the Feb. 13 Duel – twin 150-mile heat races that set the rest of the field for the Daytona 500. That event begins at 7 p.m. with live coverage on FS1. Daytona Speedweeks then culminates with the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 16, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.

While eligible for the non-points Busch Clash on Feb. 9, Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing have opted not to compete in the exhibition race to instead focus attention on preparation for the Daytona 500.

The Marty Gaunt-owned team has competed on a part-time basis at the Cup Series level since 2017. Parker Kligerman drove the GBR No. 96 in 14 races last season, and Drew Herring stepped in for one event, the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Suarez’s announcement clears up one of the last remaining uncertainties in the NASCAR Cup Series garage. The former NASCAR Next driver was also linked to Richard Childress Racing in the days leading up to his deal with Gaunt Brothers Racing.