The Backstretch Blog's Top 16 in '18: No. 16 Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The green flag drops on the Daytona 500 in just 16 days and this is the time of year when I try to my best Ricky Matthews or Chris Michaels imitation and predict the future. (Why not Ricky plays NASCAR car reporter twice a year, right Ricky? Haha). I'm not sure if predicting NASCAR playoff contenders is harder or easier than predicting the weather, but I do know I'm not as good at it as they are. None the less, I'll be picking the 16 drivers I think will make NASCAR's postseason and at least give you a little insight into the drivers to watch this season, so you will be ready when the green flag drops February 18th. So here we go...

Number 16- Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing

It's hard to ask anyone to do what Suarez did last season. Here's a guy who thought he would be running another season in the Xfinity series and instead jumped into a championship contending car halfway through the off season. But the rookie did a pretty good job of just keeping it between the lines, not ruffling a lot of feathers and bringing the car home each week. With an average finish of 16th and 12 Top 10 and a top five, he didn't light the world on fire, but he didn't embarrass himself either, even though in reality he was in the Cup series probably a year too soon.

As Suarez enters his sophomore season, that nose to the grindstone, consistent performance can serve him well in the playoff format. You don't have to win races to make the postseason, though it does help. What you do need is to run up front and finish races. Suarez can do that and I think he will improve on this 20th place points finish, at least by four spots and make the NASCAR playoffs this season.

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