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Power Steering Issues End Suarez’s Playoff Hopes

(Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

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.

(Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

“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.”

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.”

Nathan Solomon is a junior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Bona Venture, and as the sports director for the campus radio station, WSBU 88.3 FM. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute baseball content, and he started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021 and became managing editor in the spring of 2022. He is recognized as an NMPA journalist. You may reach out to Nathan anytime at NSolly02@Yahoo.com.

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