Maybe it’s not always the best idea to take your weekend inspiration from the company name of your sponsor.
Daniel Suarez‘s No. 41 Ford Mustang was sponsored by Ruckus Networks this weekend, and Suarez certainly raised a ruckus at ISM Raceway during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ TicketGuardian 500. Following qualifying, he body-slammed fellow Ford driver Michael McDowell into the ground on pit road in a fight which saw him pinned on McDowell’s hood.
Then, even more awkwardly, they qualified next to each other, which meant they had to share the same truck on the introductory pace lap. Once the race actually started, Suarez had his engine stall out about one third of the way into the event, trapping him a lap down for much of the way. He may have been involved in McDowell’s race-ending wreck (TV replays weren’t clear on this point), and definitely made contact with at least Brad Keselowski and his former teammate Kyle Busch.
He also was responsible for turning rookie Ryan Preece into the inside wall, ending the JTG-Daugherty driver’s day. Suarez ultimately finished a lap down in 23rd, but maybe he’s officially a member of Stewart-Haas Racing now that he’s caused off-track mayhem due to a hot temper?
The race winner, by the way, was Busch, who swept the weekend after winning the Xfinity Series’ iK9 service Dog 200 on Saturday (March 9). It was Cup win No. 52 and overall win No. 199, meaning he will certainly pass Richard Petty’s mark of 200 total victories sooner than later. Through four Cup races so far in 2019, the No. 18 has finished no worse than sixth, and since the reconfiguration of the track, Busch is undefeated in all the events he’s entered at ISM.
Austin Dillon‘s results thus far: 16th at Daytona, 21st at Atlanta, 20th at Las Vegas and 21st at ISM. His rookie Richard Childress Racing teammate Daniel Hemric has beaten him in three of the four races, with results of 34th, 20th, 23rd and 18th in his first full-time season.
Kevin Harvick used to rule Phoenix, and though he never led a lap on Sunday, he still finished ninth. Throwing out the Daytona 500, he’s posted finishes of fourth, fourth and ninth this season, which means once his No. 4 SHR team figures out the new cars and rules package, he’ll be right in the middle of the title fight.
It may be his home track, but Alex Bowman has not performed very well at ISM Raceway. In eight Cup starts, half of them in Hendrick Motorsports equipment, Bowman has six finishes of 30th or worse. That includes three DNFs, which is counting Sunday’s result after the No. 88 was removed due to repeated crash damage from flat tires.
Denny Hamlin is quietly having a solid start to 2019. The veteran Joe Gibbs Racing driver won the Daytona 500, and followed it with a car-matching 11th at Atlanta, 10th at Las Vegas and fifth at ISM. Since ISM is mostly flat, and since it races like a short track, Hamlin has found it fairly easy to drive, scoring one win (2012) and 16 top-10s in 28 Cup starts.
Rick Ware Racing has had a tough start to the season, with two early wrecks coming in bizarre circumstances. Cody Ware was taken out on pit road in the Daytona 500 and finished 39th out of 40 cars. His finishes since aren’t much better: 33rd at Atlanta in a 37-car field, 35th at Las Vegas out of 38 cars, and 32nd on Sunday in a 36-car field. Ware’s been beaten by his teammates in all four races, as BJ McLeod put up results of 19th, 32nd and 37th before Bayley Currey drove to a 31st in his Cup debut.
Paint Scheme of the Week
Paul Menard‘s Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Mustang looked a little different this weekend, as it was wrapped in the green, white and gold colors of Quaker State. The white spoiler on the green back bumper was a bit odd, but overall I thought this was an excellent scheme. There is the old racing superstition about green cars being bad luck, but Menard was a solid 17th, which isn’t great, but not awful either.
Saurez’s car was a little on the plain side, but it wasn’t bad looking.
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) March 9, 2019
A Hendrick fan enjoyed his race experience and is already looking forward to the next time stock-car racing comes to Arizona.
Had a blast yesterday at @ISMRaceway #TicketGuardian500 .
Getting up close to my favorite team @Hooters @NAPARacing @chaseelliott No.9 was awesome. Looking forward to November !! pic.twitter.com/jWNhibw7dt
— Di9 #TEAMNAPA9 (@Redneckrebel_88) March 11, 2019
Roush Fenway Racing’s tweet is accurate – they were four- and five-wide on most of the restarts.
— Roush Fenway (@roushfenway) March 10, 2019
The two-mile Auto Club Speedway in California is up next for the MENCS and the Xfinity Series as the West Coast Swing comes to a close with the Auto Club 400 and the Production Alliance 300, respectively.
The Chip Ganassi Racing duo will be solid, as will the drivers from JGR, SHR and Team Penske. But I’m going to say that Harvick gets his first victory of 2019, and if he doesn’t then either Kyle Larson or Ryan Blaney will get the job done.
The Auto Club 400 will be Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. ET, with television coverage on FOX.