By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
Daniel Suarez started from the pole position after turning a lap at 169.924 mph in knockout qualifying and led a race-high 133 laps en route to winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the XFINITIY Series championship.
The 24-year-old driver from Monterrey, Mexico became the first Latin American driver to win a NASCAR national series championship and is the first graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program to win a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.
“Man, I don’t think I can speak English right now. I’m just wordless,” an emotional Suarez said in victory lane. “I’m just very proud of this team and everyone that’s been helping me. I just can’t believe this.”
Suarez’s friends and family were on hand for the historic moment.
“It’s very hard to put into words. 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.”
The championship capped a stellar season in which Suarez earned the first XFINITY Series victory of his career at Michigan and recorded 19 top-five finishes in 33 starts. Suarez never finished outside the top-five in the seven races comprising the inaugural season of the Chase in the XFINITY Series.
Aside from the air hose getting hung on the right front during the team’s first pit stop of the race and losing a few valuable positions, it was a near perfect race for Suarez and his Joe Gibbs Racing team. Restarting fourth, Suarez drove by championship contender Justin Allgaier and Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson to quickly retake the lead at Lap 37.
Suarez would run towards the front of the field throughout the race and had the most dominant car of the championship competitors.
With 50 laps to go, The Championship 4 occupied the first four positions on the race track with Suarez leading Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Erik Jones. Allgaier would lead for five laps and Jones for six before Suarez worked his way back into the lead. Jones and Allgaier would battle hard for the second position, but after clearing Allgaier, Jones wasn’t quite able to catch his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
The leaders hit pit road for the final time after the caution flew for a spin by the No. 07 of Ray Black Jr. with 10 laps to go. Suarez took four tires and fuel and would restart third behind the No. 14 of Cole Whitt, who did not pit, and championship contender Elliott Sadler, who gained 10 positions on the final stop by taking just two tires. When Whitt spun the tires on the restart, Suarez was able to get by Sadler and earn the victory by 0.968 seconds.
“I didn’t know what (Cole Whitt) was going to do there but I’m happy it worked out.
“Honestly I don’t mind doing all the interviews in the world. I’m just so happy for my team, so happy for my family who is here and a lot of friends, the sponsors – ARRIS, Interstate Batteries, Juniper, DeWALT, Coca-Cola, Toyota – everyone who has helped for this to happen and to be here right now.”