Daniel Suarez captured the 2016 Xfinity Series season title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, becoming the first foreign champion in a NASCAR national series. The 24-year-old Mexican driver, out-dueled fellow championship contenders Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones on a shaky restart with just three laps to go.
A six and a half second, two tire pit stop for JR Motorsports’ driver Elliott Sadler put him on the front row for the final restart in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300. First place Cole Whitt failed to get going with old tires at the drop of the green flag, Daniel Suarez took advantage and sped around for the lead. That was all the space his #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota needed, holding on for the victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It’s very hard to put into words,” Suarez said. “I’m speechless right now. 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. 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.”
Daniel Suarez also thanked fans and his native country in Spanish in victory lane. His win was also the first of the weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing. The successful team has two drivers Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, racing for the Sprint Cup championship on Sunday. It was just Suarez’s third career win, but the most important for obvious reasons.
Elliott Sadler, who gambled by taking two tires on the final pit stop, finished third in the race and second in the standings. The former Sprint Cup driver and sentimental favorite, still has never won a championship at any level in a career that spans more than two decades.
“This is by far the hardest because I feel like this is the best team I’ve probably ever worked with,” said Sadler, who drove with an interim crew chief because his usual one was suspended. “We felt like we could come in here and compete, and we made a great pit call there at the end to get some clean air.”
JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier took the checkered flag sixth, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones in ninth. Both speedsters got stuck behind leader Cole Whitt on the final restart, and when Whitt spun his worn-out tires.
Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones fell behind Daniel Suarez and could not make up the distance lost on the re-start. The mayhem on the re-start definitely benefited Suarez, who passed Elliott Sadler on the low side and pulled away from the pack. Suarez led 133 of the 200 laps in the race.
“It’s really frustrating,” Jones said. “I don’t mean to bag on the guy so much, but it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re up here racing for the championship.’ And maybe we don’t even win it if he pits and lets us move up, but at least we also would have had a fair shot at it. I feel like we kind of got robbed of at least our chance to race for it. Yeah, it’s also just unfortunate. It just wasn’t a great situation altogether.”
Daniel Suarez, last year’s top rookie in the Xfinity series, began competing in karts in Mexico. As he improved upon his skills, Suarez moved to North Carolina as a teenager to pursue a career at NASCAR’s national level.
The Joe Gibbs Racing phenom, flourished in his second season with the team. The Mexican-born driver also benefited from teammate Erik Jones, the Chase favorite to win the title. As Erik Jones struggled down the stretch, Daniel Suarez stepped-up his performance in the Chase.
The 2016 Xfinity Series champion, won at Dover to move through the Round of 12 and finished second at Kentucky and third at Charlotte Speedway. Then, Suarez also tallied finishes of third at Kansas Speedway, fifth at Texas Raceway and fifth at Phoenix. That set the stage for his finale’ in Miami and his first Xfinity Series win after the EcoBoost 300 on Saturday.
Final Results for the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
1. (1) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 200.
2. (11) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
3. (2) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200.
4. (4) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.
5. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (14) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (3) Erik Jones Toyota, 200.
10. (15) Aric Almirola, Ford, 200.
11. (9) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 200.
12. (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.
13. (19) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 200.
14. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.
15. (10) Brandon Jones Chevrolet, 200.
16. (13) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200.
17. (18) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 200.
18. (16) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 200.
19. (25) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 199.
20. (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199.
21. (26) Ryan Preece Chevrolet, 199.
22. (20) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
23. (31) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 198.
24. (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.
25. (39) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 197.
26. (35) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 196.
27. (17) Brennan Poole Chevrolet, 196.
28. (30) Ray Black Jr Chevrolet, 195.
29. (28) Garrett Smithley Chevrolet, 195.
30. (34) Brandon Hightower, Dodge, 195.
31. (29) BJ McLeod Ford, 195.
32. (40) Jeff Green, Ford, 194.
33. (38) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 193.
34. (37) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 189.
35. (21) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, Oil Leak, 167.
36. (22) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Accident, 134.
37. (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Ignition, 87.
38. (36) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, Overheating, 49.
39. (32) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Brakes, 43.
40. (24) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Vibration, 2.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 116.455 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 34 Mins, 34 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.968 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 11 drivers.
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