Suarez thrills the crowd with a late lap pass for the winShare
Daniel Suarez used a daring late lap pass to win the Menards 250 presented by Valvoline at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.
When the race began, it looked as though Suarez would not be in position for the win, especially after a pit road speeding penalty during the first caution of the race on Lap 29. After exiting pit road first, Suarez had to drop to the back to serve the penalty. This move set the tone for the rest of the afternoon until the final couple laps.
The frustrated Suarez started to slowly work his way through the field. Meanwhile his teammates ran first and second. Defending Michigan XFINITY champion Kyle Busch led for 24 of the first 54 laps.
That would not be the only adversity Suarez would face on the afternoon. Midway through the race, Suarez lost his clutch in his car, making pit stops challenging.
With 13 laps to go, Suarez made a run. He was able to pass Paul Menard, Erik Jones and Elliott Sadler to move to second. At that point he quickly set his sights on the race leader. Over the final 10 laps, Suarez started to slowly cut into Busch’s lead. Suarez nosed in front of Busch as the two took the white flag at the start-finish line.
Suarez completed the pass as the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates battled for the lead heading into turn one. From there it was all Suarez as he held off his mentor.
“Honestly, I was trying as hard as possible – I was driving a little more on the edge,” Suarez said. “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.”
It was a special moment for Suarez who won his first career XFINITY Series race after only leading for four laps compared to Busch’s leading 88 laps.
“They said to just keep looking out front and driving hard like you’ve been doing all day,” Suarez said. “‘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.”
He became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR national series race. Suarez is also the sixth foreign-born driver to win in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
This was the first victory and 11th top-10 finish in 2016 for Suarez. He leads the point standings by 18 points over Elliott Sadler.
Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones finished fourth. Paul Menard (third) posted his ninth top-10 finish in 11 races at Michigan International Speedway. Brendan Gaughan completed his 100,000th mile in NASCAR competition during the race.
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