By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
While more than half of the NASCAR Playoff drivers faced issues during Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500, the “Lady in Black” also left a mark on non-Playoff drivers as well.
With less than 50 laps remaining in the crown jewel event at Darlington Raceway, Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez fought for position down the front stretch. Suarez had a better exit out of Turn 4 and looked to the inside for the pass. Bowman blocked crossing the start-finish line, so Suarez switched lanes to try the outside.
Bowman pulled a double block, commonly frowned upon by racing enthusiasts. And the result spoke for itself.
Suarez held his line as his Chevrolet counterpart continued to block, sweeping across the front bumper and turning himself into the outside wall. Suarez spun to the inside, getting t-boned by Harrison Burton who was merely an innocent bystander.
Both drivers failed to finish the race.
Both drivers failed to see the incident eye to eye.
“I had a run on him,” Suarez shared after the wreck. “I went to the inside and after that, he blocked me pretty low. I had to lift a little bit to not wreck him and put him into the inside wall because we both are Chevy partners. I didn’t want to do that to him. But then I go high and he blocks me again. You can block once. You cannot block twice like that.”
Bowman’s take was quite opposite.
“Obviously it didn’t work,” said Bowman from his side of the story. “He chose not to lift and to crash us, but every time I race the 99 he does something dumb so whether it’s his crew chief flipping me off on the way to the airport or just any time I’m around him he blocks me really aggressively.”
Suarez continued with the angle that Bowman could have raced him smarter.
“We have been racing here for three and a half hours, and to wreck with 50 laps to go is a little bit dumb,” remarked Suarez. “He just has to be smarter. It’s a shame. My team did a very good job. I feel like today we had a top-ten car and all we have to show for it is a wrecked race car.”
And as for Bowman, he regrets the second block but pointed out some history between the two drivers.
“…Looking back I shouldn’t have done it,” continued Bowman. “But we were just really tight on the short run and I knew I needed to hang onto whatever track position I could. Kind of just got a bad run off of [turn] four being tight and saw he had a run. I knew if I could hold on for a couple laps that we’d be really good, but yeah.
“He wants to call me dumb, every time I’m around him there’s a big block so that’s just part of racing sometimes.”
No matter where the fault may lie, the Chevrolet partners are fighting to be the highest in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings among non-Playoff drivers. Bowman missed out on the Playoffs after a fractured vertebra during a sprint car race back in April and was sidelined for three Cup races. He was leading the championship standings earlier this season.
Suarez has had a roller coaster of a season. After the first three races of the season, the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team sat fourth in the championship standings with all top 10 finishes. However, they would only capture five more top 10 results during the remaining 23 events, including a runner-up finish in Atlanta back in July. If they had won that race, it would have been an automatic berth into the postseason.
But now, what could have been a top 10 finish that both drivers were hoping for ended in smoke, literally and figuratively.
“He has to use his brain a little more,” Suarez grinned.