NXS: Suarez Tames The Monster Mile; Moves Forward In XFINITY Playoffs

Rence Brown Featured, NASCAR, XFINITY 0 Comments

Daniel Suarez celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Sunday morning's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover Int'l Speedway. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

Daniel Suarez celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Sunday morning’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover Int’l Speedway.
(Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

DOVER, Del. – Mother Nature did nothing to rain on Daniel Suarez’s parade Sunday morning at Dover Int’l Speedway.

Suarez took advantage of the lack of Sprint Cup regulars in the field for the rain-postponed Drive Sober 200 at the Monster Mile and dominated the proceedings en route to victory, clinching a spot in the next round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase playoffs as a result.

With a rainstorm on Saturday creating a unique doubleheader and forcing Cup playoff drivers Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon out of the field for the Drive Sober 200, Suarez started third, battled briefly with teammate Erik Jones and ultimately obliterated the rest of his competition.

The native of Monterrey, Mexico lead 123 of 200 laps en route to his second career XFINITY win, becoming the third foreign-born driver to win multiple races in his XFINITY career. (Ron Fellows – 5; Marcos Ambrose – 4)

“I’m very proud of this entire team. The No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry was really good today, and the team did a very good job. The guys just brought an amazing car,” Suarez said. “This was one of those races where you would feel bad if you lost the race, you know what I mean?”

“It’s pretty unbelievable to win this way. I really don’t remember the last time I won a race like we did here.”

After taking the lead for the first time on the day at lap 57 from teammate and polesitter Erik Jones, Suarez pulled out to a massive advantage following a quick caution for Ryan Ellis’ hard crash on the backstretch.

Never being seriously challenged and holding a near-five second gap by the time a cycle of green flag pit stops began, Suarez ducked in for service with 76 laps to go, sparking a chain of events that ultimately saw Chase underdog Blake Koch grab the top spot on strategy four laps later.

Koch stayed out in front and caught a timely caution when Suarez tagged the back of Justin Marks’ Chevrolet while racing for third with 63 to go, seeing Marks turn hard right into the outside turn two wall and drawing a lengthy caution period.

Marks was evaluated and released from the infield care center despite the heavy impact, while Koch ran out of fuel under the caution and ceded the point to Suarez, who brought the field back to the restart with 49 circuits remaining.

At the race’s resumption, a brief challenge on the restart saw Justin Allgaier snag the lead from Suarez for three laps, but Suarez used a textbook move in turn four on lap 155 to take the air off of Allgaier’s JR Motorsports Chevrolet, loosening up the No. 7 and allowing Suarez to take back the lead for good.

“He was racing aggressive because clean air is everything,” Suarez said of Allgaier. “He got me right there on the restart and I was a little faster than him … and I knew if I was close to his rear bumper I was going to make him loose. I don’t think I ever touched him, but that was enough to make him loose and allowed me to be able to complete the pass.”

After having to start at the rear for unapproved adjustments, Ty Dillon rallied through the field and survived a brush with the outside wall at lap 33 to come home second.

The improbable run bolstered Dillon’s Chase hopes leaving Dover, as he went from 12th to ninth in the standings and now sits just three points outside the cutoff with one race to go in round one.

“The car was really good. Obviously we were motivated,” Dillon said. “It was a fun race. We started off really good and I slapped the wall at the new addition (SAFER Barrier) to the race track. I thought it was going to mess some stuff up, but it we were still actually pretty good. I don’t know if we had anything for the 19 (Suarez) but I would have liked to get through traffic a little bit quicker to have a shot at him.”

“All in all it was a great day, it was what we needed. It takes a little pressure off going into Charlotte, if we execute there, how we did today, we will be fine.”

Allgaier came home on the podium in third, followed by Cup regular Ryan Blaney and JR Motorsports’ Alex Bowman.

Corey LaJoie captured a career-best series finish in sixth, with points leader Elliott Sadler, J.J. Yeley, Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed completing the top 10.

Jones led 54 of the first 56 laps from the pole, but pitted at halfway with a vibration and an ill-handling race car, falling two laps down. With no further cautions to aid his cause, Jones had to come back down pit road with eight laps to go for a splash of fuel and ultimately finished 16th.

The mid-pack result leaves Jones 10th in points, four markers behind the cutoff line and in danger of elimination next week, following a crash at Kentucky Speedway in last week’s Chase opener that put him deep in the standings.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 8 for the first elimination race of the Chase, the Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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