HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Daniel Suarez survived a frantic late race restart holding off his Championship contenders to win the NASCAR Xfinity Ford EcoBoost 300 and the series title Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Suarez, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, led a race high 133 laps from pole in route to the race win, his third of the season. The win also secured the title for the Mexican born driver, who becomes NASCAR’s first foreign born driver to win a title in the NASCAR’s National series.
It’s very hard to put into words. I’m speechless right now,” Suarez said. “I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have – my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now. They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me and right now we are just living a dream.”
While Suarez was in control much of the race, his three Championship rivals made sure he earned his win and title.
Justin Allgaier stalked Suarez for much of the 200 laps, smacking the wall on several occasions. That only slowed him down momentarily, and soon has was back looking for the lead. He would lead six laps. Erik Jones, overcame damage in the middle of the race that put him outside the top five and was looking the lead late in the going. He too however scrapped the wall on several occasions and lost momentum.
A meeting with Ryan Reed on lap 122 put Jones as deep as 11th at one point. In the closing stages, Jones was in a position to grab the lead. The races seventh and final caution with 10 laps to go however tightened the field and gave Elliott Sadler his best shot at the title.
Ray Black Jr. spun and the leaders all came in for final stops. Sadler, who had dropped as low as 14th at one point, took only two and won the race off pit road. The lead of the race though wasn’t his. That belonged to Cole Whitt who stayed out with tires that were 30 laps older.
Despite frantic pleas from Sadler’s JR Motorsports crew, Whitt elected to restart on the outside lane, the preferred line, with Sadler on the inside and Suarez in third just behind Whitt.
The green came out with three laps to go. Whitt slowed dramatically, and Sadler shot to the lead. Suarez was able to clear Whitt, and with fresher tires soon overtook and passed Sadler.
“It was not exactly what we wanted,” Sadler said. “We had to fight back there at the end. We had to make a pit strategy call and put two tires on, and was looking forward to just trying to get some clean air and then try to dictate the restart and see if I could hold these guys off with four tires there at the end, and you just — the 14 didn’t go, so I hesitated a little bit, and Daniel did a good job and got a good run on me. I just kind of made a little bit of mistake there on the restart.”
“All in all, it was a good finish for us,” he added. “But definitely not the goal that we came down here to get.”
The biggest victim in the scramble was Jones who was hung up behind Whitt. In the end, Suarez won the race and the title. Ty Dillon was able to get past Sadler to finish second, Sadler hung on for third. Ryan Blaney was fourth, Austin Dillon fifth.
Allgaier finished sixth, Kyle Larson, who led 23 laps but was slowed by meetings with the wall finished seventh. Brendan Gaughan was eighth, Jones settled for ninth with Aric Almirola 10th. The full results can be found here.
“I guess he just wanted to stack up the top line,” Jones said of Whitt. “I don’t know, maybe he’s never started first before. I don’t know. It’s just kind of insane really. I’ve never seen anything like it. He didn’t even attempt to go. He didn’t spin his tires. He just sat there and stacked the top line up. It was pretty disrespectful, really, and I strongly hope that somebody is able to talk to him about that. I’d really hate to see something like that happen again.”