DOVER, Del. — Daniel Suarez jumped out of his car and sprinted down the front stretch to grab the checkered flag and take an untraditional victory lap on the track.
“I had to run a little bit. That’s fine,” he said, laughing. “When you win, you can run a little bit.”
Suarez cruised into the second round of the Chase in the Xfinity Series with a win Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
He won his second career Xfinity race a day after rain washed out the race and forced a rare NASCAR doubleheader. NASCAR ran its first Xfinity-Cup doubleheader since April 25, 2010, at Talladega Superspeedway.
Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national race in June at Michigan. He became a part of NASCAR in 2011 and was involved in its Drive for Diversity and Next programs.
Team owner Joe Gibbs has been a stout supporter of NASCAR’s diversity programs.
“From a diversity standpoint and all he represents there from a Hispanic standpoint too, I think it’s huge for our sport,” he said. “He’s the perfect representative. He’s funny, he’s got a good sense of humor and I think he really, really appreciates where he is.”
Suarez said he was proud to learn in victory lane that he won during National Hispanic Heritage Month. He said he won for all of his fans across North America.
“Having all of the support that I have had from Mexico and from here in the U.S. and all of Latin America has been super special,” he said. “I really feel lucky to be in this position and to be able to represent all of them.”
Suarez led 123 of 200 laps in the No. 19 Toyota and joined Elliott Sadler in the second round of the Chase.
Ty Dillon was second, followed by Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman.
With three top NASCAR Cup stars sitting out, the top five was filled with Xfinity regulars. Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano all had replacement drivers in the Xfinity race to focus on the Cup race scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Regan Smith finished 13th driving for Dillon; Drew Herring was 21st subbing for Busch; and Blaney filled in for Logano.
Busch has eight Xfinity wins, Dillon has two and Logano has one this season.
Allgaier said that even if the three stars raced, Suarez was still the driver to beat.
“I don’t know that anybody was going to beat him today,” Allgaier said. “I think it was smart for the Cup guys to sit out. I think two races in one day would have been a strain, mentally.”
Ty Dillon, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones are in danger of being eliminated from the Chase next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. So is Erik Jones, one of the top rising stars in the sport who entered the Chase as the top speed. Jones finished 16th and was 28th last week.
“It’s pretty embarrassing not to even be in the Chase right now for the next round,” Jones said. “It’s just unfortunate; it’s just something that I never would have seen it coming.”