Normally a racers emotions during and after NASCAR qualifying come as the driver who wins the pole celebrates. Those who don’t win the pole, or have a bad qualifying session may be upset but usually not too terribly badly.
Not so Friday night at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Shortly after the first of three rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup qualifying, driver Daniel Suarez could be seen walking briskly back to pit road. There he confronted driver Michael McDowell who had just climbed from his car and was still wearing his helmet. Both drivers had missed out on moving to the next round of qualifying. Suarez shoved McDowell and soon the two were in a full out brawl that at one point had both drivers on the ground before crewmembers stepped in pulling the drivers off the ground and apart from each other
Turns out McDowell had messed up Suarez’s qualifying hot lap.
“We all kind of waited until the end and then you just had a lot of traffic,” McDowell said. “Just unfortunate, you know he was upset that I held him up on his first lap and then he tried to crash us. I just didn’t appreciate it.”
McDowell said he hoped the two drivers would talk about what happened on the track prior to Sunday.
“Yeah for sure,” he said. “It’s just heat of the moment stuff, it’s racing you know; it’s …shorter practice session, shorter qualifying, getting late going through tech, so it’s all part of it. (The) Intensity ramps up.”
Suarez headed back to his hauler and was still visibly upset.
“Lack of respect,” he said. “You know track position is very big in these races these days and you have to qualify well to have a good stall on pit road and to have a good start in the race. The race is long so you can always overcome that but it’s just a lack of respect.
“Everyone in the garage knows the second lap is a good one,” he added. “You have to try to get out of the way if someone is coming on a hot lap and he didn’t. He killed me on one corner, I thought he was going to get out of the way in that second corner and he didn’t and I almost wrecked him and then he was disappointed that I was trying to wreck him afterwards, but that’s part of racing.”
As for if he will talk to McDowell, Suarez said he wasn’t sure if he would.
“I’m the kind of driver that I’m going to give a lot of respect to you, always, if you give me respect back,” he said. “If you don’t give me respect, I’m going to go kick your ass.”
In a somewhat ironic twist of fate the drivers will start beside each other, McDowell 27, Suarez 28. That also means that the two will share in the pre-race ride in the back of a pick up truck during driver intros Sunday.