WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Daniel Suarez was able to put his road-racing background from his days in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series to use on Sunday, holding off Martin Truex Jr. for a stage win and ultimately scoring his career-best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish Sunday at Watkins Glen Int’l.
Suarez led 14 laps and topped Stage 2 of the I Love New York 355 at the Glen by four car lengths over a charging Truex, then managed his fuel to perfection over the drama-filled final stage of the race, picking off positions one by one as he climbed up the pylon to third in the closing laps.
Finishing a scant five seconds behind eventual winner Truex and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, the day was a big one for the NASCAR Next alumnus and reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.
However, he admitted he wished that he could have gone harder a little sooner in the closing stint.
“Man, what a day,” Suarez said. “I knew that fuel could be a factor, because it’s really hard to have a full-course caution on a road course … and everyone was spread out towards the end. It’s hard to do these fuel mileage races.”
“I felt like we were really saving good fuel. I really wanted to go. I could see the 78 (Truex) not very far in front of me … but I was being told to save, to save. I felt like we were fine, because I saved a lot of fuel early … as much as I could; downshifting early and all that. You never know, though. I’m happy with our finish.”
Arguably the most exciting portion of Suarez’s day was his block of Truex in Turn 7 to seal the win in Stage 2, a move that Suarez explained he pulled from his earliest racing days.
“I think that was a go kart move,” Suarez joked of the block. “That’s a move I used to do when I was 10 years old in go karts. It was pretty tough (to hold off Truex). My front and rear tires were pretty hot already and I was just trying to hold on for my life.”
Despite not being able to challenge for the win at the end, Suarez did say his performance was one that both he and the team could be proud of leaving the Glen.
“It feels very good for sure,” he said of finishing third. “To be that close is tough. It’s a tough feeling, but I’m proud of all of these guys. I was telling my guys that I’m going to take the fuel tank out myself to see how much fuel we’ve got left and if we have half a gallon I’ll feel bad … because I felt like I should’ve pushed a little bit more.”
“You never know if those guys were running out and I could have won this thing. But, I’m just so proud of these guys. Everyone that put this program together, I’m very happy to be a small part of it.”
Sunday marked Suarez’s fourth-straight top-10 finish and his first laps led in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Now that’s he’s having a chance to return to many of the tracks on the Cup schedule for a second time, Suarez says he and his team are finding their stride and beginning to shine as they apply their previous knowledge.
“I mentioned in the beginning of the year that I was so looking forward to the second half of the year … because I knew that the second half of the year we were going to be more competitive,” Suarez explained. “I knew our second time at all these race tracks, we were going to have a note book and we were going to go to those race tracks already knowing what to expect. That’s really helped us, I feel like.”
“All the hard work from my team and from everyone in the 19 group … it’s paying off. In the beginning of the year, we were not like that. I wasn’t the same driver, either, and now I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We have speed pretty much every weekend now where we are running in the top 10. I don’t think it’s a surprise anymore for us to run in the top 10. We just have to keep it up. We have to keep ourselves calm, and hopefully we can catch a break in the next few weeks to try to make it in the playoffs.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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