There may still be a lot of laps to go, but Daniel Suarez has already achieved quite a few personal firsts this season with his #99 Trackhouse Racing team.

Most laps in one season? He crossed it off the bingo card after 23 events. Improve his position in points? Sitting 13th in the championship standings, this is the highest figure Suarez has sat on the board this late in the season. Win the race? It became the dominant fashion at Sonoma Raceway. It was an achievement that brought not one but two accolades as Suarez qualified for the play-offs for the first time.

It’s all nice, but it doesn’t look finished. He doesn’t seem pleased either.

On Saturday at Richmond Raceway, Suarez admitted it was nice to be in the final stretch of the regular season and not worry about the playoffs. There won’t be a last-ditch effort like the last few seasons to try to get in the net because he knows he’ll be a part of it.

“Honestly, I’m already in the playoffs and I’ve had that mindset for the last six weeks,” Suarez said. “I don’t think it’s possible to go into the playoffs and just flip a switch and say, ‘OK, we’re in the playoffs and now we’ve got to push really hard.’

“I don’t think it works that way, so you have to start building it up, and I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing, especially with the No. 99 team. I think it shows on the track.”

Since winning at Sonoma, Suarez has finished outside the top 10 just three times. Two of those results were in the last two weeks, but do not reflect team results. He was a contender for the road course at Indianapolis, but didn’t survive the chaos. The #99 Chevrolet was quick at Michigan and finished in the top three, but was eventually caught out by the final caution when teammate Ross Chastain collided with Christopher Bell.

Without the caution, Suarez felt he and Chastain could have controlled the end of the race given their pit club strategy. And while he doesn’t think he was fast enough to beat the Toyota drivers outright, he was confident of a podium finish. Suarez led 33 laps at Michigan.

Indianapolis and Michigan ended their top-10 streak at four. He was no worse than ninth between Road America (July 3) and Pocono (July 24).

“For the last two months, we’ve had race cars capable of finishing in the top five every week,” Suarez said. “We haven’t finished there the last two weeks for various reasons, but other than that, we’ve been in the top five, top eight every week. That’s good. I like it.

“This weekend in Richmond, I feel like it’s a real, real test for us, especially since we really struggled here last time. I’m really looking forward to this week to see what we have in store.”

Suarez finished 16th at Richmond in the spring. This is the second racetrack that Cup Series teams have visited for the second time before the start of the postseason (Atlanta is the second and Daytona is the third and final).

As for the postseason, Suarez is ready and believes his team is ready to contend when it matters most.

“I think so,” he said. “I definitely think we will be strong. Our team is getting stronger and stronger and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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