Daniel Suarez gets loose while leading the race, causing him to spin, bringing out the second caution in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
RELATED: Race results " 2015 final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Joe Gibbs sees Daniel Suárez as a big part of the future -- not only for NASCAR but for his team. Part of the equation is about the 23-year-old’s talents as the driver who just earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Suárez moved up to fifth in the final series standings with his sixth-place effort in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . But a lot of it is about how Suárez got to that point, advancing through NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program to become a factor in both the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series this year. "It's exciting for our sport," Gibbs said. "I don't think I've been in any business meeting the last five years where (somebody) didn't say 'We've got to reach the Hispanic market.' It's a big deal for us to have Daniel on board. "It helps me from the standpoint that I want to be a good partner in every part of NASCAR. We've been heavily involved in the (Drive for) Diversity program with a number of different guys. We think it's good for our sport. I know it is. I think our sport belongs in every part of the market in America and I think this is a big step." Suárez is the first Mexican driver and second Drive for Diversity product to win Sunoco Rookie of the Year in one of NASCAR's national series. Although he didn't win an XFINITY race, he won three Coors Light Pole Awards, recorded 18 top-10 finishes and placed second to Joey Logano at Bristol Motor Speedway . "It's been a long journey so far, but a very fun one," Suárez says. "We had a goal early in the year to get the Rookie of the Year, be strong and try to contend for some wins. We didn't win, but we were close several times. We ran in the front. I don't think it was a surprise to see the ARRIS No. 18 in the front, which for me was something really good." Suárez, has been fast ever since arriving on the scene from Monterrey, Mexico, where he was accustomed to open-wheel racing and road courses, not ovals. He was Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Mexico Series in 2010. Advancing to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Rev Racing, he placed third in the 2013 standings with nine top-10 finishes. But he's also had a lot to learn [[ from mastering the English language to mastering how to handle NASCAR's race cars and tracks. "These cars are different," he says. "They are so aero-dependent and to move around the race track, '’m not used to that. When I was racing in Mexico, you used to start in one line and I was used to staying in that lane. So, all this is new to me." Saturday's race was a tribute to how far Suárez has come. After qualifying on the front row, he dropped all the way to 16th, a lap down, after his team was penalized for a loose tire in the pits. Clawing his way back into contention, he was one of only 10 finishers on the lead lap. His sixth-place finish enabled him to bump veteran Elliott Sadler (13th) from the fifth and final seat at Monday night's XFINITY championship banquet. Still, Suárez, who gained additional experience by driving 13 races for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, knows he has a long way to go. "There is a huge difference between racing fast, racing in the front and winning a race," he says. "And this is one of the steps I have to make for next year. This was one of my goals for this year. I didn’t get that one. So in the offseason I am looking forward to working as hard as possible with my team to take that next step and win races." As for a chance to drive in the Sprint Cup Series, Suárez believes that will come in due time. "I feel if I'm in the right place and with the right people to make that step at the right time," he said, "But for now we need to focus on what we're doing right now." His owner will be watching closely. "We are really proud of Daniel ," Gibbs said. "He has done a fantastic job both on and off the track and I know ARRIS and Toyota are extremely excited to have him earn this honor. "He has been consistent throughout the year but also showed improvement each week and that really showed up as he returned to tracks for a second time. He has put a lot into this and I'm just thrilled for him and his family, the team, and everyone that supports him, both here and back in Mexico.
RELATED: Practice 2 results Daniel Suarez propelled his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around Kansas Speedway at 183.362 mph, topping the speed charts of Friday's closing XFINITY Series practice. Points leader Chris Buescher , who led the opening session that afternoon, came up next, his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing ride reaching a high speed of 181.513 mph. Filling out the top five were RSS Racing's Ryan Sieg (181.190 mph), Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch (180.983 mph), and Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon (180.838). After being forced to a back-up car upon a hard hit with the wall in the opening session, Darrell Wallace Jr . posted the 17th-fastest speed on the leaderboard. The caution flag was flown twice during the session, both times for debris. The first set of debris damaged Kevin Harvick 's No. 88, which came up 12th on the leaderboard. The XFINITY Series is back on track at Kansas on Saturday for Coors Light Pole Qualifying. RELATED: Practice 1 results NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher topped the leaderboard at Kansas Speedway early in Friday's opening practice and remained there for the remainder of the 50-minute session. Buescher propelled his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to a fast lap of 181.251 mph around the 1.5-mile tri-oval to secure the top position. Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Busch was next on the charts, recording a top speed of 180.717 mph in his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Busch is the reigning XFINITY winner at the Midwestern track, having reached Victory Lane in October 2014. HScott Motorsports ' Brennan Poole used a fast lap of 180.463 mph to snag the third spot, while Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon (180.367 mph) and Team Penske 's Joey Logano (180.361 mph) rounded out the top five. Reigning XFINITY champion Chase Elliott posted the 13th-fastest time in his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. The caution flag flew early in the session when David Starr 's No. 44 smacked the wall in Turn 2. Darrell Wallace Jr . brought out another caution late when his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing ride hit the wall hard and spun off Turn 4. Due to extensive damage, Wallace Jr. -- who came up ninth in the session -- may go to a back-up car for the remainder of the weekend at Kansas. The XFINITY Series is back on track at Kansas at 4:30 p.m. ET for final practice (NBCSN/Live Extra).
RELATED: More on Dash 4 Cash DARLINGTON, S.C. – Winning the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus wasn't on the mind of Daniel Suarez during the closing laps of Saturday's VFW Sports Clips 200 at Darlington Raceway . That's because the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was concerned about something a bit more important – his first NASCAR XFINITY Series win. "No it’s not," Suarez said following his third-place finish. "But the victory is." Late green-flag pit stops by the leaders cycled the No. 18 Toyota of Suarez into the lead, and with his team instructing him to save fuel, the 23-year-old nursed his advantage for as long and as far as he could –until the rocket-fast entry of teammate Denny Hamlin came roaring past with just three laps remaining on its way to the checkered flag. Fellow teammate Kyle Busch shot around Suarez to claim second as JGR drivers swept the top three spots in the series' 24th stop. Third wasn't first, but it was tops among the four eligible drivers competing for the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. Others vying for the award were Brian Scott (12th), Ty Dillon (15th) and Chase Elliott (24th). "After I hit the wall, for some reason … I messed something up and I wasn't able to hear 100 percent my spotter and my people," Suarez said. "I was able to understand them but when we were under the green flag it was tough. "When we had maybe 20 laps to go, when we took the lead, they were telling me to save fuel … I was saving; I wanted to save but I didn’t want to lose the lead, either. It's always hard to be in the position when you need to save fuel and you are leading the race because I wanted to go; I wanted to lead more. "But the problem is if I go, and for some reason we run out of fuel, that's my fault." Suarez qualified for the fourth segment in this year's Dash 4 Cash program by finishing fifth last month at Bristol, earning his first $100,000 bonus. Regan Smith (JR Motorsports) had won the season's first two segments, at Dover and Indianapolis. In a NASCAR.com fan pole asked to pick the Darlington Dash 4 Cash winner, Suarez received only eight percent of the vote. Scott received 40 percent of the vote, Elliott 37 percent and Dillon 15 percent. "We were alright; it's just once everyone started pitting as early as they did, I got a little bit scared and I knew we had a buffer," Eric Phillips, crew chief for Suarez , said. "And in my mind, we were racing the 3 (Dillon), the 2 (Scott) and the 9 (Elliott) for that XFINITY $100,000. "The fuel situation was probably close. But … probably not as close because we saved a lot of gas there at the end – probably too much gas." Hamlin pitted with 27 laps remaining in the 147-lap race, a move necessitated due to problems filling the car with fuel on a previous stop. But the flip side of the earlier-than-anticipated trip to pit road eventually played into the driver's favor – the fresh tires enabled him to shoot through the field as others stopped to eventually reel in his teammate. "He did a great job," Phillips said of his driver, who made contact with the wall during practice on Friday and again on the second lap of Saturday's race. "The hardest thing with him is to get him to understand that's part of this place. It's going to happen. The best of them have done it all the time. You've got to go keep dealing with it, and you're going to do it. You're pushing as hard as we pushed, and we probably didn't have the best car but we got a good finish and did what we needed to do today." It was the first trip to Darlington's difficult 1.366-mile track for Suarez . A third-place finish and second consecutive $100,000 bonus didn't make up for the lost opportunity, but it made it easier to digest. "I felt like we were a top-10 car," said Suarez . "We were running seventh, sixth maybe, not much better than that. And we finished third. So we'll take it."
MORE: Official NASCAR release " Bowyer drops to 16th after penalty NASCAR announced P2 penalties for race-winner Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez on Wednesday for infractions during Saturday night's XFINITY Series' Furious 7 300 at Chicagoland Speedway . RELATED: Race-winner Busch's No. 54 fails post-race inspection After earning his series-leading 74th XFINITY victory, Busch's winning No. 54 Toyota failed post-race inspection. NASCAR officials found the car to be too low, failing to meet minimum height requirements on all four corners ( Sections 12.1 , 22.214.171.124.1. b & c, 126.96.36.199.2.b & c, 188.8.131.52.1.f, 184.108.40.206.2.a.b & d of the NASCAR rule book). In response, crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $12,500 and placed on probation through Dec. 31 2015. Car owner J.D. Gibbs was docked 10 series championship owner points. The No. 18 team, whose car is wheeled by Suarez , was penalized for modifications to the right side vertical extension panel (side skirt) following pre-race inspection ( Sections 12.1 and 20.4b and 20.4.2a of the NASCAR rule book). As a result, No. 18 crew chief Eric P. Phillips and crew member John Egbert Jr. have been placed on probation through Dec. 31, 2015. While the sanctioning body annulled governing ride-height heights for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prior to the 2014 season, the regulations remain intact for the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. The Sprint Cup Series teams of Danica Patrick and Chase Contender Clint Bowyer were also penalized following Sunday's Cup event at Chicagoland. The No. 15 team was given a P4 penalty, while the No. 10 team was handed a P2.
Driver of No. 51 encouraged by career-best finish in series In just six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Drive 4 Diversity graduate Daniel Suarez is getting the hang of it, and it shows after the Mexican-born driver finished second -- Suarez's best finish in the series -- in the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway on Friday. From wheeling winning cars in the K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Toyota Series, Suarez has balanced driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series and piloting the No. 19 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in the Camping World Truck Series with grace. "The whole 2015 so far has been a big difference from my 2014 -- what I was racing in in Mexico and some K&N races -- definitely a big step, a big, big difference," Suarez said after his second-place finish at Dover. "Racing with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports it's just a great opportunity and I'm very lucky because to have fast race cars every weekend is just great. I feel like we have a shot every single weekend, I feel like I'm learning a lot every single weekend ... Kyle has been on our side a lot helping us as well. Everyone in Joe Gibbs Racing . I just feel like we're getting closer and closer (to a win)." But with Dover being such a physically demanding track and the KBM driver having never raced there before in a truck, Suarez was able to lean on team owner Kyle Busch -- a 42-time Truck Series winner -- for track knowledge and advice. "Most of the race tracks that we've been to this year, I've never been to before," Suarez said. "... It's just a little bit difficult to get onto the race track when you have no idea what's going on, what to expect with a new race car, with a new race track ... Kyle (Busch) has been very helpful to me, to give me advice, what to expect, how I need to be to be strong in the race, not just in practice." While Busch's guidance has been helpful, Suarez discusses how his confidence has grown in just the first few months of the 2015 season. "I've been very surprised how competitive we've been in the last couple months in both series. To be honest, I feel different from February to right now. I feel much different. I have more confidence. I know a little bit more. ... And on both sides we are competitive. Hopefully, we can get a little more luck soon and maybe finish in Victory Lane." In six Truck starts, Suarez has only finished outside the top 10 once (15th at Talladega). The No. 51 Toyota driver will take the track next on Saturday, Aug. 1 for the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway . FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: Charlotte race results " Updated series standings CONCORD, N.C. -- At the end of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , Daniel Suarez climbed out of his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota like a seasoned pro. With his feet planted on the concrete and his helmet off, he immediately found himself in the midst of a media frenzy, everyone wanting a quote or two from the Mexican-born driver. No, Suarez did not win the Charlotte race, but his fourth-place finish (best among XFINITY Series regulars) was in many ways, the equivalent of a trip to Victory Lane. Yet, Suarez remains hungry for that elusive victory. "We are getting closer," Suarez said, coated thickly in his signature accent. In his first full-time season in a NASCAR national series, Suarez has seen plenty of progress in himself. His 2015 stats are on the caliber of the veterans with a total of seven top fives, 14 top 10s and three poles. He is also leading Darrell Wallace Jr . in the race for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. The only thing missing from his resume is that coveted win. "I have great teammates with a lot of experience and they have been super helpful to me," Suarez explained. "I think that has been all the difference." In addition to Suarez , Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , Erik Jones , Matt Kenseth , Boris Said and Kenny Habul are among the notable drivers to spend significant seat time in JGR cars in the XFINITY Series. The 23-year-old not only credits JGR for the recipe for his success, but puts hard work into the equation as well. "I never had to work that hard to be running in the top 10, top five," Suarez said, referencing his past racing career in Mexico with great success in the NASCAR Mexico Series. "The competition is so much more difficult here. You have to work hard. A good car is not enough. You have to make the car as perfect as possible." And Suarez looks forward to take his almost "perfect" Toyota to Kansas for the second time this year for Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Suarez raced at Kansas Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series back in May and earned a sixth-place result after starting 10th. "I am happy to go back to Kansas. I am happy to go back to these race tracks for the second time. (I'm) learning information, that is ... helpful. The second time is always better." The second time proved to be better at Charlotte where Suarez improved on a sixth-place result in the spring XFINITY race to last weekend's fourth-place finish. And that "better" at Kansas could possibly come in the form of a win for the rookie, who is now ranked seventh in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings.
RELATED: Full qualifying results Daniel Suarez topped the leaderboard during Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series qualifying at Kentucky Speedway and earned his third Coors Light pole of the season. Suarez covered the 1.5-mile track with a fast lap of 179.856 mph. Joining Suarez on the front row for the Saturday night race will be the No. 2 Chevrolet of Brian Scott who posted a fast lap of 178.855 mph. Scott has been strong all weekend as he was the fastest amongst his competition during both of Friday's practice sessions. Rounding out the top three on the qualifying leaderboard was Regan Smith , who wheeled his No. 7 Chevrolet around the track with a third-fastest lap of 178.719 mph. The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (178.353 mpn) and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford of Ryan Blaney (177.895) were fourth and fifth, respectively. The defending race winner, Brendan Gaughan , was sixth-fastest at 177.760 mph in his No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. On-track action picks back up at Kentucky for the NASCAR XFINITY Series' VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (200 laps, 300 miles) at 8 p.m. on NBCSN/Live Extra.
RELATED: Full practice results Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Daniel Suarez topped the lone NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Chicagoland Speedway . Suarez's fast lap of 177.713 mph topped the charts of the 145-minute session. In fact, three JGR cars made up the top four with another Toyota (J.J. Yeley) making it a clean sweep of the top four spots in practice. Yeley was second in the session (176.725 mph), followed by the JGR duo of Kyle Busch (176.079 mph) and Matt Kenseth (175.833 mph). Richard Childress Racing took four of the top 10 spots with Paul Menard (5th, 175.154 mph), Ty Dillon (6th, 174.859 mph), Brendan Gaughan (7th, 174.672 mph) and Brian Scott (10th, 174.014 mph). Entering this weekend, Chris Buescher holds a 21-point lead over defending series champion Chase Elliott in the championship battle, with Dillon 27 points back and Regan Smith 49 points behind. Buescher finished 16th in practice, while Elliott (who won last week at Richmond) finished 19th and Smith, his JR Motorsports teammate, finished 14th. Friday's practice was the only on-track time of the day for the XFINITY Series drivers. Saturday will be a busy day for the series with Coors Light Pole Qualifying taking place at 2:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra) and the Furious 7 300 at 6 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Suarez able to hold off first practice leader Kyle Busch SECOND PRACTICE: Full results Daniel Suarez topped the XFINITY Series final practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon with a fastest lap of 176.810 mph in 50.902 seconds. Suarez was sixth fastest in the first practice Friday morning, improving his fastest lap time by more than one second in the second round. Kyle Busch , who posted the top speed in Friday’s first session, was second this time, clocking in at 175.466 mph (51.292 seconds). Kyle Larson drove the HScott Motorsports No. 42 Chevrolet posting a fastest lap of 174.907 mph and Erik Jones ’ Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota was fourth on the leaderboard with a lap of 174.842 mph. Rounding out the top five for practice No. 2 was Brian Scott in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (174.432 mph). Kevin Harvick , who is pulling double duty in the Sprint Cup and XFINITY races this weekend, had some troubles with his No. 88 Chevrolet and finished 18th during the second session. The reigning Indy champ, Ty Dillon , had more success during the second session than the first, clocking in a seventh-fastest lap of 174.125 mph. Dillon said his No. 3 Richard Childress Chevrolet car was, however, too tight the entire practice and needed to be worked on before the qualifying round. The XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set to start Saturday at 11:35 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network. OPENING PRACTICE: FULL RESULTS Last year's Lilly Diabetes 250 runner-up, Kyle Busch , topped the leaderboard in Friday's first practice for NASCAR XFINITY Series with a fastest lap of 178.717 mph (50.359 seconds). Busch, who missed the first three months of the season with severe leg and foot injuries in a crash in the XFINITY opener, has had an impressive summer of racing with back-to-back wins on the Sprint Cup Series side and a victory in the XFINITY Series in June. With a new aerodynamic package set for this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, drivers were able to put into practice the much-talked-about changes for the first time. Paul Menard was second-fastest, clocking in at 177.845 mph. In all of Menard's three NASCAR XFINITY Series' starts at Indy he has finished in the top-10. On the Sprint Cup side, he has his only premier-series win at the rectangular track. Erik Jones rounded out the top three with a fastest lap of 176.139 mph. This weekend marks the first time the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver will race at Indy. Kyle Larson (175.967 mph), Ryan Blaney (175.654 mph) and rookie Daniel Suarez (175.394 mph) rounded out the top six in the first practice round. The new rules package is designed to promote more side-by-side racing at Indy, a track notorious for difficult passing. The biggest aerodynamic change was to the rear spoiler, which was raised to a 9-inch height. GALLERY: What the new spoiler looks like at Indy Although the new high-drag rules package has gotten mixed reviews, veteran XFINITY Series driver, Brendan Gaughan , said he didn’t see a huge difference. Gaughan's No. 62 Chevrolet was eighth-fastest in the first practice with a fastest speed of 175.104 mph. Last year's winner, Ty Dillon , was 16th-fastest after dealing with some engine issues early in the session. On-track action for XFINITY Series continues at 2:30 p.m. ET for the final practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule