CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Suárez looked over his crumpled No. 99 Chevrolet back in the Charlotte Motor Speedway garage, assessing the same car that had matched the speed of teammate Ross Chastain’s well into the fourth and final stage of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
There was consolation in the strength of his showing. But the sting for Suárez was still fresh.
“We had the fastest car all day,” Suárez said, his day ending with a 25th-place finish and 346 of the eventual 413 laps completed.
His tangle with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe off Turn 4 ended a promising evening for the 30-year-old vet, whose car skittered nearly the length of the frontstretch and caught several others in its wake. Prime among those was Chris Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Racing Ford, which veered into the infield turf and catapulted on its broken parts into a barrel roll. He emerged unhurt.
The swells of this season’s high-octane performance for Trackhouse Racing continued to rise in Sunday’s endurance challenge. Chastain won Stage 3 and led a race-best 153 laps; Suárez was in front four times for 36 circuits, taking Stage 2 and giving his teammate stiff competition through the race’s middle portions.
Some of the team’s laps led came during Stage 1 before a precipitous drop-off that Suárez said rendered the car nearly undrivable. He was 29th at the end of the first 100-lap stint and had to rally back into the top-running fray.
But his No. 99 crew also faced adversity in its location on pit road, stopping in pit stall 3 — right behind Denny Hamlin (stall 1) and Joey Logano (stall 2), in a spot that made pit entry and exit difficult.
“We took an opening in and thought we had a good pit stall for the race,” said No. 99 crew chief Travis Mack. “The 22 (Logano) picked real late during pit selection and they picked in between us and the 11 (Hamlin), and just all night it was just really difficult to stop the car short enough. The 22’s coming around us, kind of clipping our right-front tire changer and, you know the 11 was doing the same thing to the 22.
“So it’s just part of the game. Unfortunate pit stall but in the end, I don’t think that was gonna hinder us from winning the race. Definitely didn’t make it easy, but we definitely had a car to win tonight.”
Said Suárez: “Pit road was tough. My guys are pretty fast, but coming with the 22 around the 11, we kept losing positions. It was a tough one. This one hurts.”
Buescher was OK after his No. 17 Ford’s wild ride off course, saying he might have soreness to shake off Monday. He said it was his first upside-down crash “in a really long time,” and he took note of the safety crew’s response in making sure he was unhurt, then righting his car before extracting him.
“I do appreciate them for helping me and setting it back over again, so thank you to everybody working for not slamming it back,” said Buescher, who placed 26th, right behind Suárez. “It was nice to be able to get out. The blood is rushing to your head a little bit. I guess I could have pulled the belts and fallen right to the ground, but figured I’d just wait on them.”
Chastain has been a top performer this year in Trackhouse’s No. 1 Chevy, snagging his first Cup Series win at Circuit of The Americas back in March, then adding another in quick fashion a month later. Sunday’s effort from Suárez suggested that his own breakthrough under the Trackhouse banner was approaching.
“These guys worked so hard this week on this car, and the car’s amazing,” Mack said. “Daniel’s doing a great job. Just everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong tonight. You saw us, I mean, I don’t know how many cars we passed, but golly, we had to break a record. It’s really amazing what Trackhouse has been able to do with this 1 and 99 team. It’s really cool that they’re running 1-2 during the race and the two fastest cars on the track. You just see it.
“It was a good one. Good car. Daniel did a great job. We’ve just gotta keep our heads up. We keep bringing cars like that to the race track, we’re gonna get us a win.”