By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – One position meant the difference between a million dollars and $250,000 for Daniel Suarez. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver ended the Monster Energy All-Star Race one position shy of the grand prize.
It seemed like Suarez was one of several drivers who quickly adapted to the new aero package used in the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
On the final restart, Suarez had a hard push from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. The No. 19 Arris Toyota Camry maintained position with eventual race winner Kevin Harvick, until Jimmie Johnson jumped below Hamlin. The move slowed Hamlin, taking momentum away from Suarez. The second-year JGR driver then battled hard with Joey Logano to remain in the second position. Suarez ultimately finished in second.
“I felt like we had a car actually capable to win the race,” Suarez explained. “We were very strong, competitive. For whatever reason restarts, my car was taking like one lap to go and those guys, when two Fords were connected, they were pretty strong. We just – I needed a little bit more right there. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) got disconnected with myself a little bit. I tried to side draft the 4 (Kevin Harvick), but it was just tough. After that it was pretty much game over because I started racing the 22 (Joey Logano) instead of the 4, but proud of my guys. We’ve been racing really in the All-Star twice already, two times, so that’s not bad. It hurts to be close and to not get it.”
The All-Star Race was not easy for Suarez, as he transferred from the Monster Energy Open via a Stage 2 win in that event. After starting 19th, he followed Logano, A.J. Allmendinger, and Chase Elliott up through the field. Suarez moved inside the top-10 by the end of Stage 1, and the top-five by the third Stage. The aero-package allowed the Monterrey, Mexico native to navigate through the field with help from the draft.
This was Suarez’s second All-Star Race appearance. Last year, he was eliminated prior to the final stage of the race, relegating him to a finish well outside the top-10. In both All-Star Race appearances, Suarez won a stage in the Monster Energy Open.
Now Suarez and his No. 19 team will prepare for next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 when the series returns to the standard aero package.