Mexico’s Daniel Suarez is NASCAR XFINITY Series champ

Photo by Andrew Coppley/Harold Hinson Photography

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Daniel Suarez streaked away from Elliott Sadler after the final restart in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and three laps later, NASCAR had its first foreign-born national touring series champion.

Ultimately, the 24-year-old driver from Monterrey, Mexico beat Ty Dillon to the finish line by .968 seconds. Sadler, who had taken two tires and gained the second position on a Lap 193 pit stop, came home third and finished second in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.

“It’s very hard to put into words,” said Suarez, who led 133 of 200 laps on the way to his third victory of the season and his 19th top five in 33 starts this year. “I’m speechless right now. I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have – my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now.

“They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me, and right now we are just living a dream.”

Suarez was leading fellow Championship 4 contender and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones by less than three car-lengths when Ray Black Jr. spun off Turn 4 to bring out the seventh and final caution on Lap 190.

Under the yellow on Lap 193, lead-lap cars came to pit road for tires, but the No. 14 Toyota of Cole Whitt stayed on the track on old tires and inherited the lead, while Sadler’s two-tire stop put the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on the inside of the front row.

Coming to the green on Lap 198, Whitt stalled out in the top lane, pinning Jones behind him and costing him any shot at the championship. Suarez rocketed past Sadler into Turn 1 and pulled away for the victory and the championship.

“I should have made a better block on Daniel,” Sadler said ruefully. “We didn’t know that 14 would stay out and jumble up that restart like that. I wish I’d done a better job on that restart. I guess I’ll be ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ for a while…

“I knew Daniel had a better car on four tires, but I wish I could have put up a better fight.”

Sadler came to Homestead with Mike Bumgarner on his pit box after full-time crew chief Kevin Meendering was suspended for a lug nut violation last weekend in Phoenix.

Justin Allgaier came home sixth and claimed third place in the final series standings. Jones ran ninth, finished fourth in the XFINITY standings and remained mystified at Whitt’s decision to stay out on old tires for the final restart.

“I’d love to hear an explanation from him, from the crew chief,” Jones said. “It just didn’t make any sense. He was staying out there on old tires with four guys, literally almost the top four was the four championship guys racing for it.

“Yeah, I’d definitely love to hear exactly what their thoughts were or what happened, why he didn’t go in the restart box. Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that I have that I would love to have answered.”

Note: Suarez also delivered the owner championship to Joe Gibbs Racing via his No. 19 Toyota, and his JGR teammate, Erik Jones, won the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Ford EcoBoost 300 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

  1. (1) Daniel Suarez (C), Toyota, 200.
  2. (11) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
  3. (2) Elliott Sadler (C), Chevrolet, 200.
  4. (4) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 200.
  5. (5) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  6. (6) Justin Allgaier (C), Chevrolet, 200.
  7. (7) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  8. (14) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (3) Erik Jones (C) #, Toyota, 200.
  10. (15) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 200.
  11. (9) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 200.
  12. (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.
  13. (19) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 200.
  14. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.
  15. (10) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 200.
  16. (13) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200.
  17. (18) Cole Custer(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  18. (16) Cole Whitt(i), Toyota, 200.
  19. (25) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 199.
  20. (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199.
  21. (26) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 199.
  22. (20) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
  23. (31) Brandon Brown(i), Chevrolet, 198.
  24. (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.
  25. (39) Matt Tifft(i), Toyota, 197.
  26. (35) Travis Kvapil(i), Ford, 196.
  27. (17) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 196.
  28. (30) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 195.
  29. (28) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 195.
  30. (34) Brandon Hightower, Dodge, 195.
  31. (29) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 195.
  32. (40) Jeff Green, Ford, 194.
  33. (38) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 193.
  34. (37) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 189.
  35. (21) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, Oil Leak, 167.
  36. (22) Jordan Anderson(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 134.
  37. (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Ignition, 87.
  38. (36) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, Overheating, 49.
  39. (32) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Brakes, 43.
  40. (24) Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, Vibration, 2.

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