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The Underdog House: Daniel Suarez Is the Big Dog of the Yard Once Again

Top Dog

A little dirt never hurt anyone. That saying may not have applied to the favorites for the postponed Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Daniel Suarez sure took it to heart. The newly established Trackhouse Racing is not only exceeding expectations but has arguably been the best of the three new organizations that have entered the Cup scene.

Suarez was nipping at the heels of the big dogs on the dirt on Monday, March 29. At one point, Suarez was not only the top underdog but also the top dog of the field. He led 58 laps, a career-high, and the third-most in the race out of all drivers. His laps led total was the most he’s paced the field out front since he led 52 at Kentucky Speedway in 2019 ie route to his first top-five with the new team.

Contrary to what was expected (even though the unexpected was the theme of the weekend), many drivers with a short resume of dirt experience were up front. That included Suarez’s No. 99 Camping World Chevrolet. Suarez had no prior dirt experience but certainly seemed to learn a lot from his run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the day. The Monterrey, Mexico native showed strength from the beginning, finishing fourth in stage one after getting as high as second.

Stage two had the same vibes as Matt DiBenedetto’s near upset victory at the “Last Great Coliseum” in the 2019 fall race. On lap 35 of the stage, Suarez used the textbook bump-and-run on Martin Truex Jr. to take the lead. He held it until late in the stage when eventual race winner Joey Logano squeezed past on the stage’s final restart.

It was a story of the little engine that could at the inaugural Bristol dirt race as Suarez held with the leaders for the rest of the race. He wasn’t able to have a shot at the end, but Suarez earned a highly impressive fourth-place finish. It is the first top five and top 10 for Trackhouse Racing and Suarez’s first topf ive since the Texas fall race in 2019.

“To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing, but we’re having fun,” Suarez told FOX Sports after the race. “Everyone at Trackhouse Racing did an amazing job. This is the second week in a row where we have had very fast race cars capable enough to run in the top five and top 10. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

Honorable Mention

Erik Jones has more dirt experience than Suarez, but his notebook was still considerably thin compared to many drivers when comparing roots. Driving an alternate look of the “Tide Ride,” Jones drove his No. 43 Tide/Food City Chevrolet to his second top-10 finish of the season. It is the quickest that Richard Petty Motorsports has reached multiple top-10 finishes since 2018.

Jones started the race in 24th and quickly moved up to 14th by the end of stage one. The Michigan native hung just inside or outside of the top 10 for most of the race. His day improved by earning three stage points in stage two with an eighth-place result.

Jones held steady for most of the final stage, getting as high as eighth. A pass with just over 20 laps to go vaulted Jones into the ninth position, which he would hold for the remainder of the race.

“It was a good day for our No. 43 Tide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE at the Bristol Motor Speedway.” Jones said following the race. “We started a little bit further back in the lineup, and worked our way towards the top 10. Our Richard Petty Motorsports team ended up getting some good stage points throughout the day and ended up coming home in ninth place. It was a solid day. What we were looking for today was getting back towards the top 10, and I think our Chevrolet Camaro was probably a little bit better than that. We just kind of ran out of laps and ran out of time the way the race was sectioned out. We got some good notes. We are going to do this again in the future, so hopefully we can take something we learned from today, move forward with it and bring it back next time.”

Other Dogs

Michael McDowell continued his achievement of stellar results with a 12th-place finish in Monday’s dirt race. It was his highest result since a sixth-place run at Homestead-Miami, and his sixth top-20 result in seven races. Ryan Preece earned his first top-20 finish since Las Vegas with an 18th-place run.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had its annual dirt race shifted from Eldora to Bristol and Knoxville for 2021. After their race was postponed twice, the tailgaters took to the track at noon on Monday (March 29). Parker Kligerman once again earned an impressive finish, finishing in eighth after the 150-lap event. Austin Wayne Self enjoyed a strong day on the dirt as well, earning his first top-10 finish of the season in seventh.

What to Expect Next

All three series get a breather as the tour takes the week off in recognition of Easter. Both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series return on April 9 and April 10 for a date under the lights at Martinsville Speedway.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series gets a two-week break before they head to Henrico, Virginia, for a race at Richmond Raceway on April 17.

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