Suarez Winner and Champion

NASCAR

“I’m just so proud of this team and everyone who has helped me get to this point. I just can’t believe this." (Photo: Getty Images)

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Daniel Suarez took the checkered flag in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.

Suarez became the first International NASCAR touring series champion when the Mexican-born driver scored the title on Saturday night.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Suarez said, fighting back tears in Victory Lane.

Suarez got a jump on the night’s final restart with four laps to go and was able to outrun the field to the checkered flag.

“I can’t believe this is happening and I am so happy,” said Suarez, who said he leaned to speak English by watching American cartoons on television.

“I’m just so proud of this team and everyone who has helped me get to this point. I just can’t believe this.”

The race was set up for the dramatic finish when Ray Black Jr. spun on the front stretch and that sent the leaders including all four Championship 4 drivers to pit road. Suarez, Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier took four tires while Elliott Sadler took two.

But Cole Whitt decided to remain on track and was the leader when the green flew to restart the race. Whitt spun his tires as the field roared to life and that stacked up Jones and others behind him, allowing Suarez to get the jump.

"I thought the 14 (Whitt) would at least attempt to go, he just sat there and didn't even attempt to go,” Jones said. "It is what it is, but just kind of unfortunate," says he expected the 14 team to have more respect for the Championship teams.

When the checkered flag flew it was the 24-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico scoring the historic win and championship.

Suarez won his third race of the year and became the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win an XFINITY Series title joining Kyle Busch.

“This is big for our sport,” said team owner Gibbs. “Daniel has been such a pleasure to work with, he’s worked hard and you knew the talent was there early on his his career as he was coming up. Just so proud of this who organization, this team and of course Daniel. He comes from such a great family and he is so dedicated. This is going to be really huge for our series and NASCAR. I couldn’t be more proud right now.”

Ty Dillon, Sadler, Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.

"It's heartbreaking, to be that close and in that spot,” said Sadler, who finished second in the standings. “I've had the time of my life here at JR Motorsports. Congratulations to Daniel and his team. He did a really good job on that restart and I messed up a little bit.

"This has been a dream come true season for me, but coming in second is a hard pill to swallow.”

Allgaier, Kyle Larson, Brendan Gaughan, Erik Jones and Aric Almirola completed the first ten finishers.

"Obviously in this sport you have to take chances. They took a chance and it didn't work out," Allgaier said of Whitt’s decision to stay out.

JGR also won the XFINITY Series owners championship.

Suarez will officially be honored at the NASCAR XFINITY Series Awards Banquet Monday night in Miami.

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