The opportunity for a big night was at Daniel Suarez’s fingertips.
Suarez started from the pole in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway and led the race’s first 49 laps until a caution flew. That’s when things started going downhill.
One of many drivers who came down pit road, Suarez lost his track position with the call by the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team to go with four tires as others either went with two or fuel only.
Winding up 14th at the end of Stage 1, Suarez failed to score any points. In Stage 2, Suarez made an unscheduled green flag pit stop for a tire that was going down and was busted for speeding in the process. Falling three laps down at one point, Suarez was 29th at the end of the stage.
Leaving much-needed points on the table, Suarez admitted to having an empty feeling after the race.
“I feel like the call that we made on four tires instead of two tires in the first stage kind of messed us up a little bit,” he said. “That is part of it. We made our bed on that. There was one caution after another, and we couldn’t recover. And we had a flat tire. It was just bad decisions and a little bad luck, but we were able to overcome with a decent finish.”
Suarez finished eighth, getting back on the lead lap in the final stage. He also led an additional three laps in the race (bringing his race total to 52, which was the second-most of any driver) during a late round of green-flag pit stops.
“It was an eventful night for sure,” said Suarez. “We had a fast race car, but we got a bit tight. I feel like we made the car better, but we never got the track position back. We had a tire going down and then I was speeding coming to pit road because I was wheel hopping because of the tire.
“It was one problem after another. We were fast enough to overcome them but not enough to get a better finish. The good thing is we have the speed; we just have to keep working to have a cleaner day, and keep working to try to keep that speed the whole race.”
Unfortunately, Suarez made up no ground in his quest to make the playoffs. Going into the weekend three points out of a playoff spot, he lost one position, dropping to 18th in the standings, as well as one point to put him four behind a transfer spot.