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DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Daniel Suarez will not return to Gaunt Brothers next season: UPDATES

UPDATE 3: Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) and driver Daniel Suárez have mutually agreed to part ways upon the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Suárez joined GBR in late January and will continue to drive the No. 96 Toyota Camry through the season finale Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway.

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

GBR was founded in 2010 and stepped up to the elite NASCAR Cup Series in 2017 when it entered the Daytona 500. After running a part-time schedule for three years where GBR made a total of 37 starts with a handful of drivers, GBR committed to a full schedule in 2020 with Suárez.

"I’m extremely thankful to my entire Toyota family for everything they have done for me, especially this year. I will always be grateful to them for having my back," said Suárez, currently in his fourth season in the NASCAR Cup Series. "Marty and everyone at Gaunt Brothers Racing invest a lot of time and effort into this race team and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I have given 100 percent of myself to this team since day one, and I will continue to give 100 percent until the last lap at Phoenix. My goal has always been to win races and championships, and that will never change."

Earlier this year, GBR notched a 24-race streak of running at the finish, a mark surpassed by just one other driver/team combination this season – Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. GBR has had only one DNF (Did Not Finish) this year – the Aug. 29 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – where Suárez led 19 laps before getting caught up in a multicar accident four laps short of the finish.

"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 NextGen 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."

— Gaunt Brothers Racing —

UPDATE 2: Daniel Suarez confirmed this morning in a video message that he will not be returning to Gaunt Brothers Racing in 2021.

UPDATE: The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer reports that Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing will split at the end of this season.

ORIGINAL POST 9-14-2020: The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has been a tough one for Daniel Suarez.

At the end of January, Gaunt Brothers Racing announced it had signed on Suarez, 28, full-time for the 2020 season.

"I knew the season wasn’t going to be easy," Suarez recently told Frontstretch. "I knew there were going to be a lot of challenges ahead of us. I was up for the challenge with the new team, with Toyota, which has always been extremely helpful when you have a lot of support from a manufacturer, like we do from Toyota.

"It’s been way more difficult than what we were expecting."

That’s when Toyota stepped in.

"To be honest with you, the reason why I did this was because of Toyota," Suarez said. "I have a lot of respect for those guys and everything they’ve been accomplishing and the way they work. I really like the way they operate."

Suarez admits he had a few competitive options to go back down to NXS and chase a second title, among other choices, including a few established Cup teams.

"I did have some more options for Cup, and to be very honest with you, a couple of those options are running better than us," he said. "The reason why is, sometimes I have just a gut feeling, and I trust my gut feeling a lot."

Come this offseason, Suarez is a free agent. With less than two months remaining until the checkered flag waves on the 2020 season, the hope is to to set himself up well to get his NASCAR career back on track.

But nothing is solidified. Any shift would place him with a fourth Cup Series team in four years.

"There’s a lot of talks, a lot of things moving around and we don’t really know what’s going to happen," Suarez stated. "I enjoy working with Toyota, with Marty [Gaunt, team owner], great people, great organizations. At the same time, I want to win races.

"There are a lot of parts and pieces moving around. Hopefully we can find out soon what’s going to happen, but as of right now, the main goal is to make sure that I’m going to be able to be competitive next year. The last thing I want to do is head into next year to run 25th and to feel like a top 20 is a win."