Suárez becomes first Mexican NASCAR driver to win at national level
Daniel Suarez passed Sprint Cup Series veteran Kyle Busch on the next-to-last-lap to earn his first victory in NASCAR’s three national series.
Suarez, who battled back from an early-race pit road speeding penalty, closed to within Busch’s rear bumper in the final five laps of Saturday’s Menards 250 and was able to clear Busch, the all-time Xfinity Series wins leader and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
Paul Menard finished third, Erik Jones was fourth and Elliott Sadler was fifth.
“I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now,” an elated Suarez said from Victory Lane. “I don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now.
“This was an unbelievable machine. We had the fastest car out there. It’s just unbelievable.”
Suarez, in his 48th start, became the first Mexican driver to win at NASCAR’s national level. He is also a former participant in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.
“Daniel Suarez has competed in NASCAR for a relatively brief time, yet his impact on the sport has been immeasurable," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "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. 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.”
While watching the final laps unwind in the Fox TV booth – it was his first stint as a guest analyst – NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., said: “He made a statement today that he’s the real deal. I think a lot of people knew that, but if they didn’t, they found out today.”
Busch struggled with the handling on his No. 18 Toyota early in the race but soon found his way to the front. He dominated the remainder of the race, leading 88 of the 125 laps.
“You never want to get beat but it’s cool when you get beat fair and square,” Busch said after the race. “He ran me down and had a really fast car at the end. He had some speed and had a really good car.
“I was just trying to do the best I could with what I had. I couldn’t really hold on to it with the side-draft as he passed me.”
This season, Suarez has also been competing part-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series.
“I’d like to see him win now in a KBM truck,” Busch said, “but not by beating me.”
Although Suarez looked good for qualifying for the Chase by being the series points leader, Suarez removed any doubt with the victory at Michigan International Speedway.
Suarez said the win was particularly important coming this weekend, after the death this week of the father of his JGR teammate, Jones. David Jones died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Erik and his family,” Suarez said.
The No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano failed the Laser Inspection Station of post-race inspection. Any penalties will be announced early next week by NASCAR.
International race winners in NASCAR's three national divisions
|Country||Cup wins||Xfinity wins||Truck wins||Total|
Father of NASCAR Xfinity Series star Erik Jones passes away
Suarez overcame many hurdles on the road to first NASCAR Xfinity win