By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The decision to stay out on old tires in the final Stage at Dover International Speedway earned Daniel Suarez and Trackhouse Racing their second top-10 of 2021.
When Aric Almirola cut a tire and slammed the outside wall in turns three and four, the entire field ducked onto pit road. Five laps after the Drydene 400 went back green Anthony Alfredo spun into the inside wall after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Crew Chief Travis Mack opted to keep the No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE on track.
Suarez restarted inside the top-10. Before another quick, and final caution waved on lap 324, he was seventh. The quick succession of cautions meant that the Monterrey, Mexico native didn’t need to pit for fuel. While a handful of NASCAR Cup Series drivers pitted, Mack kept Suarez on track.
The final 70-lap green flag run saw those on fresh tires move forward. However, despite the ‘Monster Mile’ traditionally having high tire wear, Suarez held firm. Only Joey Logano and fellow Team Chevy driver Tyler Reddick passed the 29-year-old. In the final laps, Suarez kept both Cole Custer, who was on fresh tires, and Bubba Wallace, on old tires, at bay. When the checkered flag waved, Suarez was ninth.
“The No. 99 CommScope Chevy Camaro was strong,” explained Suarez. “Most of the race I felt like we were probably a top-15 car. But, with good adjustments we gained some track position and that gave us the opportunity to finish in the top-10.
“There is still a lot of work to do, definitely. Right there at the end, I was tight. I was against the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), the No. 41 (Cole Custer) and all these guys, but we were able to hold them off and get a decent finish. But we (Trackhouse Racing) have to keep working and win a trophy.”
Due to NASCAR’s metric qualifying formula, Suarez started the 400-mile race in 24th. Although he did not finish either of the first two Stages inside the top-10, he did remain on the lead lap. Never losing a lap during the race put Mack and Suarez in position to stay on track and score a top-10 finish.
As previously mentioned, the ninth-place finish is the second top-10 finish for Suarez this year. It is the second top-10 in the history of Trackhouse Racing. The race marked the 34th career top-10 in the NASCAR Cup Series for Suarez.
The top-10 finish moves Suarez up from 23rd in the points standings to 22nd. He is 52-points behind the playoff cutoff, held by Reddick. Suarez is 328-points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
Next up is Circuit of the Americas, which marks the first race since the Daytona 500 in which there will be qualifying and practice. Qualifying was scheduled before being rained out at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.
Feature Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo