Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Daniel Suarez won’t return to Gaunt Brothers’ No. 96 in 2021

Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing will part ways at the end of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Suarez, 28, joined the Marty Gaunt-owned No. 96 Toyota team this year, marking his fourth season in the NASCAR Cup Series. In a social media post, Suarez indicated that his plans for racing in 2021 are uncertain, but expressed his appreciation to the organization, Toyota and his fans.

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“I want to wish Gaunt Brothers Racing nothing but the best for the future,” Saurez said in a video posted from his personal Twitter account.

“At the same time, I don’t really know what the future holds for myself just yet, so you guys stay tuned for that news. I don’t even know exactly what is going to happen yet, but hopefully something good.”

News of the split was first reported by Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, later confirmed by Suarez and representatives of Gaunt Brothers Racing. Gaunt said Suarez will finish out the season with the organization.

“The entire team is very appreciative of the effort Daniel has put forth,” Marty Gaunt said in a statement provided by the team. “He has helped build the foundation we need for next season as well as 2022 when the NextGen car arrives. We’re both committed to earning as many points as possible in these last eight races together and finishing the season strong.”

Suarez ranks 31st in the Cup Series standings with a best finish of 18th, achieved twice this season. He failed to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500. His strongest effort this season came in the regular-season finale at Daytona, where he led 19 laps before being swept up in a crash in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Suarez will be searching for his third team in as many seasons in 2021. He was thrust into NASCAR’s top division as a rookie in 2017, replacing Carl Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing. After two seasons at JGR, Suarez spent the 2019 season at Stewart-Haas Racing before joining the Gaunt Brothers’ effort this year.

The 2020 season has marked Gaunt Brothers Racing’s first full season in the NASCAR Cup Series after three years of part-time participation.

“It’s a big jump to go from a part-time schedule to a full-time schedule, especially this season as we all dealt with the challenges of a global pandemic, but we’ve made it work,” Gaunt said. “Our strategic partnership with Toyota has been a critical and valuable asset, and that’s evident by the reliability we’ve been able to achieve this year. We’re laying important groundwork for improved goals next year that, ultimately, sets us up for success with the Next Gen car in 2022. We’re taking a methodical, long-term approach to our future and the next driver of our No. 96 Toyota will be an integral part of that development.”