Daniel Suarez thought his car was fast enough to win Saturday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But sometimes being fast isn't enough.
Unable to link up successfully with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin on a late restart, Suarez had to settle for second place behind winner Kevin Harvick. It was Suarez’s best finish in his two seasons on the Cup circuit, albeit one that didn’t garner him any points.
“I feel like we had a car to win the race,” said Suarez. “We were really strong and competitive. For whatever reason, on the restarts, we couldn’t get it done.”
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Suarez, winless in his two seasons on the Cup circuit, qualified for the All-Star Race by winning the second stage of the Open earlier Saturday evening. By the time the fourth and final stage of the All-Star Race rolled around, he had his No. 19 Toyota right behind Harvick, who seemed to be in control.
But when Joey Logano and Kyle Larson wrecked with two laps remaining, a final restart was set up.
Suarez started on the inside of Harvick on the restart. Getting a push from Hamlin, it appeared Suarez might have squeezed past Harvick in Turn 2, but Harvick – himself getting a push from fellow Ford driver Joey Logano on the outside – regained control and beat Suarez by .325th of a second.
“Joey did a better job of pushing (Harvick), they were connected,” Suarez said. “Denny had some damage on his car, and it was just unfortunate. For whatever reason, Denny couldn’t stay connected by my bumper.
“I knew the two Fords were dangerous, and they were.”
Said Harvick: "It was a tense moment, but we were able to get through the restart."
A native of Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez replaced Carl Edwards in JGR’s No. 19 Toyota in 2017. That was the year after he won the Xfinity championship, becoming the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national series title.
Suarez is well outside of the 16-driver playoffs so far this Cup season (21st), although a third-place finish (tied for a career high in a points race) two weeks ago at Dover helped give him a boost coming to Charlotte. Before Dover, he finished 10th two weeks in a row at Talladega and Richmond.
“We have a lot of confidence now,” Suarez said. “The team has done a helluva job the last two months. We’re competitive, racing up front and having a lot of fun. We’ve been running top five and top 10. So we’re on the right track and on the right line, moving forward.
“We’re good, but not great yet. I hope to get there.”