NASCAR Xfinity: Daniel Suarez wins race, championship at Homestead
Daniel Suarez celebrates at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the Ford EcoBoost 300 and the 2016 Xfinity Series championship on Nov. 19, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Daniel Suarez made NASCAR history Saturday with a dominant performance that was punctuated with a race win in the Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Suarez’s third win of the season after 133 laps led earned him the 2016 Xfinity Series championship, making him the first foreign-born driver to claim a championship in any of NASCAR’s three national series.
“It’s very hard to put into words,” Suarez said. “I’m speechless right now. I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have — my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now. They put me in a car, even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me and right now, we are just living a dream.”
The win also gave the 2016 series owners’ championship to his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team, and as the 19th win for Toyota in the 33-race season, it capped off a manufacturers’ title for Toyota, the manufacturer’s fourth in 10 years of competition in the series.
“We’re overjoyed to take home the NASCAR Xfinity Series title for Toyota this year,” Toyota Motor Sales USA Vice President of Integrated Marketing Operations Ed Laukes said. “Of course, we’re extremely proud of Daniel Suarez for winning this yeear’s Xfinity Series driver’s championship, who in combination with all of our Camry drivers have contributed to Toyota’s fourth manufacturers’ championship in the series. This is Toyota’s 10th year competing in both the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series with the Camry, andn so we’re delighted to have captured the Xfinity Series manufacturers’ title this season, as well as to have won the 2016 Truck Series title last weekend.”
Ty Dillon finished second at Homestead, while Championship Four driver Elliott Sadler finished third. Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon finished fourth and fifth, respectively, as Alex Bowman wrecked en route to the checkered flag.
Three of the four championship drivers were in the top-five for a final restart with three laps remaining in the 200-lap race, as Sadler, Suarez and Erik Jones lined up second through fourth for the restart, and the other Championship Four driver, Justin Allgaier was just outside the top-five in sixth. But Cole Whitt restarted as the race leader after staying out on old tires during a caution that came as a result of a Ray Black Jr. spin on lap 191.
Whitt struggled with his old tires on the restart, bunching up the race field and, as a result, affecting the finishing order of the race and the championship battle.
“I hope I get the chance to talk to him (Whitt),” Jones said. “I don’t know what he was thinking. That was pretty down low, really. It’s not a lot of respect shown there. I don’t know if he’s never started up front in a race before. Either way, it’s unfortunate. I hope I can just chat with him.”
Allgaier finished sixth, Kyle Larson was seventh, Brendan Gaughan eighth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-10.
Throughout most of the distance, the Championship Four drivers ran in close quarters. All four were often in the top-10 with at least three in the top-five, even though Jones nearly went a lap down during a lap 124 caution as he sat on pit road awaiting repairs to a hole in the nose of his car.
The yellow flag waved seven times with one of those cautions leading to a four-minute red flag for track clean-up after a fiery crash involving the cars of Jordan Anderson, Ryan Reed and Jeremy Clements. The wreck started with a spin by Reed. When Clements checked up, he was hit by Anderson, and Anderson’s car burst into flames. All drivers were uninjured.