Suarez captures NASCAR XFINITY race at Dover

Daniel Suarez celebrates after winning Sunday's XFINITY race at Dover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Daniel Suarez celebrates after winning Sunday’s XFINITY race at Dover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

DOVER — Daniel Suarez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, watched televised recordings of NASCAR races over and over again just so that he could learn English and be able to communicate better with his race team.

Well, during his viewing of all those races it appears as if he learned a little something about driving as well.

Suarez was the class of the field as he dominated the rain-delayed Drive Sober 200 Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, becoming the first Mexican driver to win a race at the Monster Mile.

Suarez, driving the No. 19 Interstate Batteries-sponsored Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, outdistanced runner-up Ty Dillon to the checkered flag by 5.625 seconds at Dover’s high-banked, one-mile concrete oval.

“We had a really good racecar and a lot of speed,” Suarez said. “It was one of those races where you’d really feel bad if you lose the race.”

Justin Allgaier finished in third place and was followed by Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. The top three finishers were all Chase contenders.

161002_nascar_djc_013Allgaier tipped his hat to Suarez, who completed the race in one hour, 55 minutes, 18 seconds for an average speed of 104.076 mph.

“I don’t know if anyone had anything for Daniel Suarez,” he said. “He had a really strong car.”

Suarez’s victory also ensured that he would advance to the next round of the Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship. The top eight drivers among the 12 contenders will move on following next week’s race at Charlotte.

“I just feel good,” Suarez said. “I feel like every single race we’ve been working hard and trying to find some things. Sometimes we miss a little bit but when we do miss a little bit we finish in the top five.”

“We’re consistent and we know when we have a shot to win and we know when we need to finish in the top five. I’m very proud of my team. I feel like we have some good momentum going.”
The enthusiastic Suarez, just 24-years-old, smoked his tires while doing a celebratory burnout on the frontstretch in front of his pit crew.

He then exited his car and ran down the track and got the checkered flag from the flagman, which he then swung in the air with the motion of a baseball slugger, drawing cheers from the crowd.

However, it was far from just an easy Sunday drive for Suarez.

He encountered some trouble on his way to his second-career triumph in the form of contact that led to a nasty crash for Justin Marks on lap 139.

Suarez tapped the right rear of Marks’ car entering the first turn on and sent him spinning sideways.

Marks attempted to straighten his car out but it quickly snapped to the right and slammed violently head-on into the outside wall, with the impact with the SAFER barrier lifting his car in the air momentarily.

Fortunately for Marks, he was able to walk to the ambulance uninjured and was diplomatic about the crash.

“I think there was a little bit of a storm brewing there because the leaders were all coming out of the pits on fresh tires and we were trying to stay out there as long as we could on older tires, so there was a big difference in speed,” Marks said. “I think [Suarez] just got a big run there and I got hit from behind.”

Suarez did apologize for the incident.

“It wasn’t my intention to wreck him that way,” he said. “I thought I kept a decent line on him and I think he went to the bottom [of the racetrack].”

On the ensuing restart on lap 152, Allgaier managed to pass Suarez, but Suarez was able to take the top spot back when he dove underneath Allgaier in the first turn with 46 laps remaining.

“Clean air was everything and [Allgaier] got me right there on the restart and I was a little faster than him,” Suarez said. “I knew I was real close to his rear bumper and I was able to make him loose. I don’t think I ever touched him but it was enough to make him loose and be able to complete the pass.”

From there, he set sail to a fitting victory during Hispanic Heritage Month.

“This is something really good and really special for me and for all of the people who have been supporting me since I came to the U.S. almost five years ago,” Suarez said. “Having all of the support I’ve had from Mexico, from here in the U.S., it’s super special. I feel really lucky to be in this position.”

Suarez became the first driver from Mexico to win a NASCAR race when he captured the Xfinity event at Michigan International Speedway on June 11.

Suarez’s teammate Erik Jones, who won the Xfinity race at Dover in May, started from the pole and led three times for 54 laps.

However, he was forced to pit for a vibration in his right-front wheel midway through the race and then had to pit again for fuel with just eight laps left that relegated him to a 16th-place finish.

Jones entered the Xfinity Chase as the top seed but was involved in a crash at Kentucky two weeks ago. He left Dover 10th in the point standings, four points out of the eighth transfer spot with one race remaining in the Round of 12.

“I’m disappointed,” Jones said. “It’s not how we wanted to run, for sure. It wasn’t a good day for us. I’m just frustrated and just really disappointed in how the first couple weeks have gone in the Chase.

“We’ve run so strong all year and now to kind of fall on our face here the last couple weeks has been unfortunate.”

The race featured four caution periods that encompassed 35 laps.

Jordan Anderson and Chase contender Ryan Ellis both suffered flat tires that led to hard crashes into the outside wall. Ellis was taken by ambulance to Kent General Hospital for further observation.

Corey LaJoie finished sixth while Elliott Sadler, JJ Yeley, Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed rounded out the top 10.

In the end, it turned out nobody had anything for Suarez.

“My first time [at Dover] I was scared because it was very fast,” he said, “but now I just enjoy racing here.”

That much was obvious on Sunday.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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