Suarez savors first XFINITY win at Michigan

Daniel Suarez celebrates
Daniel Suarez celebrates

Daniel Suarez surged to his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, taking the lead from Kyle Busch with two laps left.

Suarez, the series' points leader, recovered from an early race speeding penalty and rallied in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota. He led twice for four laps and became the first Mexican-born driver to win in any of NASCAR's three national series. He also became the XFINITY tour's sixth foreign-born winner in his 48th career start.

"I just have no words honestly. I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now honestly," Suarez said after emerging from his car in Victory Lane. "I can't thank these guys enough for all the hard work — Joe Gibbs Racing for having the confidence in me along with Toyota, Telcel Mexico, Coca-Cola and everyone who helped put this program together. I have no words to describe what I'm feeling right now."

The victory drew special notice from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

"Daniel Suarez has competed in NASCAR for a relatively brief time, yet his impact on the sport has been immeasurable," France said in a statement. "Combining impressive talent and an incredible personality, Daniel has attracted fans throughout North America. His accomplishments already are too numerous to list, so I congratulate him on his latest, and so far greatest one — a NASCAR XFINITY Series victory. He has come close to victory on occasions, and clearly, today was worth the wait, as he had to pass Kyle Busch, the series' all-time winningest driver, in the closing laps.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"Today's victory proved what many already knew: Daniel has the skill, fortitude and passion for future NASCAR stardom. I look forward to watching his career grow, and accomplishments mount, as he battles for a championship this year in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase."

Busch, a Sprint Cup Series regular, led a race-high 88 of 125 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota but settled for second in the Menards 250 Presented by Valvoline.

In passing Busch for the win, Suarez beat the best. Busch holds the XFINITY Series record for victories with 80. And Busch has been a willing mentor to Suarez, who also drives a limited schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

"The Kyle Busch School of Charm finished 1-2-4 today, so not too bad," said Busch, a four-time XFINITY Series winner this season. "Obviously we want to win. We thought we should have won. We had the best car for the majority of the race there, but not the last 20 laps or so — just got really loose on me."

"But congratulations to Daniel Suarez. He earned that one. It's cool to see. It's a little bittersweet to lose like that, but it's all right. It's one of my students. So the student beat the teacher today."

Paul Menard finished third, JGR driver Erik Jones fourth and Elliott Sadler fifth.

Jones started second and led 18 laps on an emotional day for the 20-year-old driver. Jones, a Byron, Michigan native, announced through Twitter during Saturday's pre-race that his father had died Tuesday at age 53 after a bout with cancer.

Before the race, he paid tribute to his father, affixing a decal with the name "Dave" in place of his own above the driver's door of his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. Suarez dedicated his breakthrough win to the Jones family in Victory Lane.

Suarez was first off pit road during the first caution period, but a speeding penalty knocked him back to 25th place for the Lap 32 restart that followed. The speeding penalty wasn't the only obstacle Suarez had to overcome. As he was working his way back to the front after the infraction, the clutch in his No. 19 Toyota failed, causing the car to stall during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 71.

Suarez gradually regained ground over the final half of the 250-miler, making his most dramatic charge over the long green-flag run to the finish. Suarez caught and inched ahead of Busch as the two drivers flashed side-by-side under the white flag for the final lap. The 24-year-old Suarez — a NASCAR Next product and last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year — held on for a .281-second margin of victory at the finish.

"Honestly, I was trying as hard as possible — I was driving a little more on the edge," said Suarez, who virtually clinched a berth in the XFINITY Series' Chase playoffs. "Honestly, I was maybe risking a little more than I should have. Everything was about the win so I was trying as hard as possible and it seemed like we were good in points, but not very good in wins. I was just very hungry and I know this team was at the same spot, we were very hungry to win races and finally we got the first one."

Alex Bowman led 11 laps and secured seventh place in just his third XFINITY start of the season in the JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. He landed his first pole position since 2013 in Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying.

Team Penske's Joey Logano finished the day sixth, but had post-race problems after failing inspection for laser inspection system (LIS).

The series' next race — the American Ethanol E15 250 Presented by Enogen — is scheduled June 19 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Iowa Speedway.

Saurez leads
Saurez leads

DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

How does it feel to get your first NASCAR XFINITY victory?

“I just have no words honestly. I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now honestly. I can’t thank these guys enough for all the hard work – Joe Gibbs Racing for having the confidence in me along with Toyota, Telcel Mexico, Coca-Cola and everyone who helped put this program together. I have no words to describe what I’m feeling right now."

How were you able to come back from the speeding penalty?

“This machine is unbelievable and it was unbelievably fast. Everyone on this 19 car, this Toyota Camry did an amazing job. Definitely the fastest car out there. I just have no words to describe what I’m feeling right now. It’s just unbelievable and to win this weekend with my friend Erik Jones and for the loss of his Dad, it’s just unbelievable. I would like to dedicate this win to him."

What were you hearing over the radio on the final lap?

“They said to just keep looking out front and driving hard like you’ve been doing all day. ‘Crazy’ (Chris Osbourne) up there, my spotter, did an amazing job all day long keeping me calm because after the penalty I was so disappointed in myself. That’s what happens when you have a fast car. I also have to thank XFINITY for this great series."

How were you able to pass Kyle Busch to win this race?

“That was a very, very fast race car. We had a penalty at the beginning of the race and that was my bad. Then since practice we had a little issue with the clutch and we thought we fixed it and then in the second half of the race it came back again, but that will happen when you have a really fast car. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and everything they’ve been doing to build really fast race cars and I’m just very proud to be part of this family and this organization."

How hard were you racing Kyle Busch in the closing laps?

“Honestly, I was trying as hard as possible – I was driving a little more on the edge. Honestly, I was maybe risking a little more than I should have. Everything was about the win so I was trying as hard as possible and it seemed like we were good in points, but not very good in wins. I was just very hungry and I know this team was at the same spot, we were very hungry to win races and finally we got the first one."

Is this as good as you expected it would be?

“This is a dream for sure."

Results

Pos. Car # Driver Manufacturer St Laps Led Status
1 19 Daniel Suarez Toyota 6 125 4 Running
2 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 5 125 88 Running
3 2 Paul Menard Chevrolet 12 125 1 Running
4 20 Erik Jones Toyota 2 125 18 Running
5 1 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet 3 125 2 Running
6 22 Joey Logano Ford 9 125 0 Running
7 88 Alex Bowman Chevrolet 1 125 11 Running
8 7 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 4 125 0 Running
9 6 Darrell Wallace Jr Ford 17 125 0 Running
10 33 Brandon Jones Chevrolet 15 125 0 Running
11 48 Brennan Poole Chevrolet 8 125 0 Running
12 39 Ryan Sieg Chevrolet 10 125 0 Running
13 11 Blake Koch Chevrolet 7 125 0 Running
14 16 Ryan Reed Ford 11 125 0 Running
15 3 Ty Dillon Chevrolet 13 125 0 Running
16 4 Ross Chastain Chevrolet 18 125 0 Running
17 0 Garrett Smithley Chevrolet 20 125 0 Running
18 62 Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 14 125 0 Running
19 01 Ryan Preece Chevrolet 24 125 0 Running
20 44 J.J. Yeley Toyota 21 124 1 Running
21 51 Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 22 124 0 Running
22 42 Justin Marks Chevrolet 16 124 0 Running
23 07 Ray Black Jr Chevrolet 26 123 0 Running
24 28 Dakoda Armstrong Toyota 19 122 0 Running
25 52 Joey Gase Chevrolet 29 121 0 Running
26 13 Harrison Rhodes Dodge 30 120 0 Running
27 90 Martin Roy Chevrolet 37 118 0 Running
28 97 T.J. Bell Chevrolet 31 117 0 Running
29 74 Mike Harmon Dodge 36 116 0 Running
30 15 Todd Peck Ford 38 116 0 Running
31 70 Derrike Cope Chevrolet 32 115 0 Running
32 25 Chris Cockrum Chevrolet 35 82 0 Accident
33 14 Jeff Green Toyota 23 75 0 Transmission
34 78 B J McLeod Ford 28 70 0 Transmission
35 92 Mario Gosselin Chevrolet 33 41 0 Vibration
36 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 34 16 0 Oil Leak
37 40 John Jackson Toyota 39 13 0 Clutch
38 79 Josh Williams Chevrolet 40 11 0 Overheating
39 93 Josh Wise Chevrolet 27 8 0 Rear Gear
40 10 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 25 3 0 Rear Gear

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