Suárez gets first top five since Atlanta win

FORT WORTH, Texas — A quarter into the 2024 season, Daniel Suárez has returned to the summit of the Cup Series’ results sheet while also avalanching down the points standings.

He has a provisional bid to the 16-driver dance for the Bill France Cup with his rousing victory at Atlanta in February, but his best finish of the year before a fifth-place result Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway was an 11th-place tally at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Amid a 276-lap race filled with 16 cautions, strategies and pit-road execution were the X factors in determining who was able to maintain track position out front. By the time the checkered flag flew under caution, Suárez found himself with a single digit next to his name on the official post-race rundown.

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“It was tricky. I thought we were going to be pretty strong, and we were pretty good in the first run,” Suárez said. “Then, in the first green-flag cycle, I don‘t know what happened to the car because we were super loose, and then after that, we started making adjustments, and we got the car better.

“We started making progress, and we got a penalty, and we went to the back again. We started making progress, and we had another bad pit stop. It was just not a very clean day at all. It was a good result at the end of the day because the strategy worked out good, and we got a couple of good restarts. But we have some work to do. We have to continue to in order to move forward.”

Obstacles and adversity filled the day for the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team. Suárez failed to score stage points in the first two legs of the race and only spent 65 laps inside the top 15, according to NASCAR loop data.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - APRIL 14: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Kubota Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14, 2024 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images

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With six cautions and two overtime restarts padding the final 46 laps Sunday, Suárez took advantage of the on-track assertiveness among the field and kept his car clean when the dust settled.

“Today we had a top five, but we didn’t have a top-five race,” Suárez said. “We got a top-five finish. So we have to continue to work and clean up a few things.”

Both Trackhouse Chevrolets were on their way to top-10 finishes until the exit of Turn 2 on the final lap when Ross Chastain washed up the track, was hit from behind and spun by a hard-charging William Byron. Instead of a runner-up finish, Chastain unceremoniously departed from his wrecked No. 1 Chevrolet on the backstretch and was credited with a 32nd-place result, his worst finish of 2024 so far.

WATCH: See last-lap contact through Byron’s windshield

“Yeah, I felt very bad for the 1 team because they deserve a better [run Sunday],” Suárez said. “They were doing a hell of a job all race long, and they should’ve finished in the top five.”

Texas has served Suárez well in the Next Gen era. He has consecutive top-10 results at the 1.5-mile facility following his fifth-place run Sunday and finished 12th in 2022.

When it comes to why he’s able to perform well in the Lone Star State, Suárez credited both the energy he gets from the fans and the prep work from his team entering Fort Worth.

“I think definitely the people. There is a lot of Hispanics here,” Suárez said. “They really give me a lot of good energy, a lot of support, a lot of love and we have had good cars. Today wasn’t pretty, honestly. After Stage 1 if you were telling me that we were going to finish top five, I was going to tell you you were crazy. So definitely wasn’t pretty but ended up working out good.”