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MONTERREY, Mexico – Daniel Suárez capped off a busy weekend with an emotional win on his home track.
The 22-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native made it to the Autódromo Monterrey in time for Sunday's NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series event, winning the Regia 240 in dramatic fashion for his third series win of the season and fifth NASCAR win of 2014.
On a day where temperatures eclipsed 100-degrees Fahrenheit, fuel management was an important factor at the one-mile bean-shaped oval. Rogelio López was leading with fewer than five laps to go, but a miscalculation left the veteran driver without gas, opening up a spot for Suárez who had been pressuring López in the closing laps. The late caution for López's stopped vehicle extended the race, with Suárez holding off Héctor Aguirre and Antonio Pérez in a green-white-checkered finish.
|5||Luis Felipe Montaño|
"I knew it wasn't going to be easy to pass [López]," said Suárez. "He made a mistake and we were able to pass him. I think he had a problem with gasoline, we all did. Our team decided to turn the car on and off during cautions and I was able to save enough fuel to finish the race."
"I'm a person that always likes to save gas, and it was a risk, but we were able to take full advantage of it."
Aguirre and Pérez crossed the line shortly after Suárez to finish second and third respectively. It was the second top-five finish for Aguirre but the fourth consecutive top five for Pérez who has not finished worse than third so far this season. Pérez won the pole in qualifying held earlier in the day, less than 24 hours after he led the field in final practice.
"I'm happy with Escuderia Telmex for giving Danny and me really fast cars," Pérez said after the race. "We were once again the fastest cars on the track, but unfortunately the circumstances weren't in our favor. Once again a bad strategy on our part kept us away from the victory, but we have to keep working and try to get the next one."
Homero Richards and Luis Felipe Montaño crossed the line fourth and fifth respectively. Rubén Pardo, 2012 champion Jorge Goeters, rookie Mario Domínguez, Rubén Garcia Jr. and Patrick Goeters completed the top 10.
It was a busy weekend for Suárez as he competed in three NASCAR events across three series and two countries. He began the weekend on Friday night with his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The Drive for Diversity program member was scheduled to run the Blue Ox 100 for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East immediately following the Nationwide event, but heavy rain in the late afternoon caused the race to be postponed until Saturday morning. Moments after completing the K&N East event, Suárez drove to Charlotte for a rescheduled flight to Monterrey, Mexico. The NASCAR Next alumnus arrived in the northern Mexican city too late to participate in Saturday's two practice sessions, but was still able to qualify eighth on Sunday, en route to his second consecutive Regia 240 victory.
"Winning at home definitely has a different taste to it," said Suárez. "To be able to win in front of everyone that's seen me grow as a driver and seen me develop has a very sweet taste. I'm very grateful and thankful to Telcel Racing for giving me a very competitive car, Escuderia Telmex and everyone that makes this possible."
In his post-race comments to the media, Suárez expressed gratitude to Escuderia Telmex teammate Pérez for practicing and setting up his car on Saturday. At one point during the final practice session, Pérez occupied two of the top three spots on the speed charts.
Suárez wasn't the only young driver to visit Richmond over the weekend. On Friday afternoon, Garcia Jr. was named as one of the 12 drivers that will make up the 2014-2015 NASCAR Next program. Rain caused the 18-year-old driver to miss his connecting flight to Monterrey. The young driver arrived a day later than expected, but was able to fight fatigue and a cold to earn his third top-10 finish of the season.
The Regia 240 appeared to be the tale of two halves. The first 75 laps of the event had only one caution, which came in the opening laps. Near the halfway point, drivers began to alter their strategy and headed to pit road for green flag pit stops. The second half of the race saw six cautions, including the final yellow which brought about a green-white-checkered finish.
The NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series will be back in action on Sunday, May 11 in San Luis Potosi. Suárez takes a 14-point advantage over Pérez into the fifth event of the season at the Autódromo Potosino.
Daniel Suárez took home his third NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series checkered flag on Sunday. Courtesy OCESA