Daniel Suarez overcame adversity in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge to finish fifth and regain the Xfinity Series point lead on Saturday.
Although he was tied with Elliott Sadler in points entering the weekend, Suarez finished one position ahead of the No. 1 JR Motorsports team at Texas Motor Speedway and hold a one-point advantage in the standings.
“I think we are in a good spot,” Suarez said. “I feel like there is no comfortable place in this format, but we are in a good spot. After doing what we have been able to do in the last month, month and a half, we do that and we will be fine and then everything will work out.”
Averting disaster with battery drama
Suarez qualified fourth and was running second behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones by the first caution on Lap 9. Suarez encountered alternator issues in the early stages of the race. Just beyond the midway point, on Lap 116, his team told Suarez he might have to switch to his backup battery but the No. 19 Toyota would have enough power to complete the race.
“I was worried because we were a little bit before or after halfway and I knew we had at least 90 more laps to go,” Suarez said. “I know that I had a second battery, but you never know and you want to be able to go. We have a lot of time we could work on the tires and brakes and everything, but after that issue I wasn’t able to use anything, even my AC, I wasn’t able to use it.
“We’re lucky that it was cloudy and fresh, in a hot day it could have been more difficult. We made through and finished.”
Suarez never dropped outside of the top 10 in the running order despite competing against three Sprint Cup regulars — Kyle Larson (winner), Brad Keselowski (second) and Kevin Harvick (third) — who ended up sweeping the podium.
Although Sadler restarted fourth with 30 laps remaining in the race, Suarez came from seventh moved to sixth on Lap 172. He passed the No. 1 Chevy for fifth with just over 20 laps remaining in the race for his 17th top five-finish of the season.
Far ahead, but still not locked in
With one race to determine the final four, Suarez has a 17-point advantage over Justin Allgaier — who is fifth in the NXS standings. Although he doesn’t feel completely secure at the top, he trusts his crew to carry through the end of the season.
“I think my entire team has a lot of confidence right now,” Suarez said. “We are not in a comfortable position, I don’t think that word exists in the Chase. We will do everything we can – we are in a good spot and will keep doing what we have been doing for a month and a half or so and are going to be just fine and hopefully we can go to Homestead after Phoenix.”