Daniel Suarez wins Atlanta shootout in photo finish

motorsport26 February 2024 03:16| © Reuters
article image
Daniel Suarez © Gallo Images

Daniel Suarez survived a wild day in Georgia Sunday.

The Mexican racer edged his way to the checkers in a three-wide run and won a wreck-filled NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

After the cars of Josh Berry and Carson Hocevar wrecked with 12 laps to go, Ryan Blaney led a five-lap shootout that included Suarez and Kyle Busch at the front.

The trio exited Turn 4 side-by-side-by-side on the final lap, and NASCAR had to review the finish, which narrowly showed Suarez's No 99 Chevrolet in first to hand the Monterrey, Mexico, native his second series win.

Blaney and Busch finished .003 and .007 seconds behind Suarez, respectively. Austin Cindric and Bubba Wallace completed the top five.

"It was so damn close," said Suarez, 32, after Trackhouse Racing recorded its first win at AMS. "It was good racing. ... We wrecked on Lap 2, and the guys did an amazing job fixing this car. I can't thank everyone enough."

Blaney and Busch said there was not much they could have done differently to prevent Suarez's tight win.

"I thought I laid back enough in (Turns) 1 and 2 to kind of not let both lanes get that big of a run," said Blaney, the defending series champion. "I did that the three laps before the end and I was able to manage it fairly well. They just got both lanes shoving pretty hard."

Added Busch: "Typically, whoever's third or behind getting into (Turn) 3 prevails at the start-finish line with the side-draft. I was second, and (Suarez) ... made the ground back up with the side-draft."

Todd Gilliland was 26th and led a race-high 58 laps in the 10-caution, second race of 2024.

Wallace was the highest finishing Toyota as the manufacturer remained winless in the past 14 AMS races since Busch won there on September 1, 2013.

Michael McDowell, who scored his first career pole in his 467th career start on Friday, was eighth.

Before the race, front row starter Joey Logano was assessed an at-track penalty for wearing gloves that had been altered after issuance.

With Logano forced to pit road to serve the pass-through penalty, a melee occurred on Lap 2 when Austin Dillon, running just inside the top 10, spun after the cars in front of him slowed.

In the largest wreck in AMS's history since it opened in 1960, 16 cars tangled as they approached Turn 1 on the 1.54-mile track, but Logano avoided the mess and moved up all the way to 20th.

In a one-lap dash to end Stage 1, Michael McDowell topped Blaney for his third career stage win and the lion's share of the bonus points.

With 26 circuits to go in 100-lap Stage 2 and coming to pit road, McDowell locked up his tires and wrecked with Daytona 500 winner William Byron as the race stayed green.

Team Penske flexed its muscle with Cindric winning the stage, but teammate Logano wrecked on the final lap after he plowed up and into Buescher, who was scrubbing along the Turn 2 wall. Denny Hamlin was also involved.

The seventh caution occurred on Lap 198 when Ross Chastain turned Chase Elliott at the end of the backstretch.