CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Suarez entered Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL with a 12-point buffer, sitting in the final transfer spot. Simply put — he needed a good day to make the Round of 8 and couldn’t have someone projected below the cutline to win.
Unfortunately for Suarez, a strong start to the race went downhill in the final stage — but not of his doing.
After finishing third and sixth in Stages 1 and 2, respectively, Suarez fell off the pace around Lap 65 and reported that his power steering had started to fail.
Suarez preserved for several laps, hoping for a caution that would allow him to pit and not lose as much time. He was physically exhausted and needed a break. After falling a lap down on Lap 72, Suarez’s team made the decision to try and repair his car under green.
Suarez finally came down pit road on Lap 82 for power steering fluid and did so again 10 laps later. He fell five laps and below the cutline by two points, but he wasn’t completely out of it. He needed something to happen to Chase Briscoe, who held the final transfer spot.
After Kyle Larson hit the wall on Lap 99 and suffered damage, Suarez dropped to three points below the cutline. Suddenly, with five laps to go, NASCAR called a caution for a piece of a sign on the track.
Once pit stops concluded, Suarez dropped even further below the cutline. The race went green with three laps to go, but after a wild restart, NASCAR called another caution half a lap later as Ty Dillon stalled on the track.
Briscoe had spun during that melee, so he pitted for tires and lined up 23rd for NASCAR Overtime. At that point, Suarez was only four points below the cutline with Austin Cindric ahead of him. Suarez now needed something to happen to Cindric while hoping Briscoe would remain below him.
Cindric spun on the final restart, but Briscoe improved 14 spots in the closing laps to knock Suarez out of the Playoffs.
“The second half of the race was probably the most difficult race I’ve driven in my life,” Suarez said. “Unfortunately, me as a driver, that’s something that’s out of my control.”
“The first half of the race was good, and then we had a mechanical failure with the steering and after that, it was game over.
“Our No. 99 CommScope Chevy was good; it was fast. I felt like it was going to be an easy transition based on the speed that we had, but once we lost the steering, I was just trying to survive. My arms are destroyed right now. My hands are destroyed. It’s just unfortunate.”
extremely exhausted, not many people could’ve race like that, I just couldn’t give up for myself &for my team. We left absolutely everything out there.
Thank u to all my amigos, 99 & Trackhouse fans out there for ur love & support! We are going 2 continue to shine the next 4weeks
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) October 10, 2022
While it didn’t end how Suarez wanted, it was undoubtedly his best NASCAR Cup Series season. He won his first career race at Sonoma Raceway in June and has a career-high six top-five finishes.
But, it’s no solace to what could have been if his power steering never failed.
“It’s very disappointing to lose a race like that,” Suarez said. “Certainly we have to continue to work and continue to get better.”