Eleven laps into Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daniel Suarez drifted too high in Turn 2 and hit the outside wall, but that wasn’t what cost him a spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Suarez recovered quickly from the early incident and drove forward. He was fourth for a restart on Lap 112 of 160 and ahead of Ryan Newman in the battle for the final Playoff spot. Suarez’s No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, however, picked up a vibration, forcing him to pit road on Lap 126. Three laps later, a caution for Kyle Larson’s wreck trapped Suarez a lap down.
Though Suarez returned to the lead lap as the beneficiary under the yellow, the vibration and the inopportune caution proved the telling blow. Suarez chased Newman over the closing laps but finished 11th to Newman’s eighth and finished the regular season four points behind Newman.
“I made a little mistake there,” Suarez said of the early brush with the wall. “I wasn’t expecting how aero-loose the car got when I got behind the 24 (William Byron). The car actually was pretty good after that, though.
“The guys were able to fix it. It was mostly cosmetic. The guys were able to fix it, and the car was just as good as before. I feel like after that the day went smooth, other than getting caught in the pit road cycle on the last stop.
“That made us lose all our track position, and it was very difficult to overcome that. We fought hard. We made it all the way back to 11th, and I feel like if we had 15 more laps, I was going to get the 6 (Newman) but that’s racing. It just wasn’t meant to be.”