In any language, Daniel Suarez is 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion

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Daniel Suarez is the 2016 champion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving a dominating race to win the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Or, to put it another way:

Daniel Suárez es el campeón de 2016 de la Serie Xfinity de NASCAR, conduciendo una carrera dominante para ganar el Ford EcoBoost 300 de finales de temporada el sábado en Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In just his second full-time season in the Xfinity Series, the 24-year-old Suarez — who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico — became the first international-born driver to win a major championship in NASCAR history.

“My family worked super hard since I was 11 years old to get better and one day … everyone that helped me, my friends in Mexico, I just can’t believe this,” Suarez told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “It’s a dream come true.”

Suarez ruled over the 200-lap event, leading 133 laps. But the biggest move for the new champion — and the first under the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship elimination format — was when he got past leader Cole Whitt, who was on older tires, and then Elliott Sadler with three laps to go and motored on to the title.

“I was a little worried because I knew (Whitt) wasn’t going to be as fast as everyone else, but it worked out,” Suarez said.

MORE: Xfinity Ford EcoBoost 300 results at Homestead-Miami

MORE: Final 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings

MORE: Cole Whitt explains actions on final restart; sorry it happened

It was Suarez’s third win of the season and, with one previous Truck Series victory, the fourth overall triumph of his NASCAR major series career.

Suarez’s previous best effort of his racing career was second place in the NASCAR Mexico Series in 2013. He had 10 wins overall in four seasons in that series.

One of two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the title race, Suarez bested his three challengers: JR Motorsports’ Sadler (finished third) and Justin Allgaier (sixth), as well as Suarez’s JGR teammate, Erik Jones (ninth).

“It’s heartbreaking,” Sadler said. “To be that close and to be in that position at the end, the guys made a great call to put me in that spot. … To come up short, yeah, I’m sad for myself, but I’m more sad for my sponsors, my team, my guys in the shop. I love them to death and I wanted to win this championship for them real bad.”

Added Jones, who was seeking his second consecutive NASCAR championship (he won the Truck Series title last season): “There’s nothing we can do now but it’s just kind of unfortunate. It was a valient effort, it just didn’t come with a big reward.”

The rest of the top 10 was Ty Dillon (second), Ryan Blaney (fourth), Austin Dillon (fifth), Kyle Larson (seventh), Brendan Gaughan (eighth) and Aric Almirola (10th).

HOW SUAREZ WON: On the final restart, leader Cole Whitt spun his tires and allowed Elliott Sadler to take the lead. But Suarez – who took four fresh tires on the last pit stop to Sadler’s two tires – got past on Lap 198 and sailed on to the race win and the championship.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Elliott Sadler had hoped to win his first championship in 21 years of NASCAR racing in both the Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup. Sadler ran a strong race, but just came up a little bit short. It’s the third time Sadler has finished second in the Xfinity Series in the last six seasons. … Race runner-up Ty Dillon was the best of the non-Chase drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a big wreck on Lap 136. Ryan Reed spun, Jordan Anderson got into the rear of Jeremy Clements, and Anderson’s destroyed car erupted in flames, bringing out a four-plus minute red flag. All drivers were uninjured. … Joey Gase hoped for a good race, but his car caught fire near the mid-point of the race, leaving him with a 37th-place finish.

NOTABLE: Elliott Sadler had to race with a replacement crew chief (Mike Bumgarner) because Kevin Meendering was suspended for the race due to loose lug nuts at Phoenix. Then, under caution with less than 40 laps to go, Sadler’s team put on scuffed tires and all five lug nuts fell off one tire, prompting them to re-glue the lug nuts manually, dropping Sadler from eighth to 16th position.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I learned how to speak English watching TV – cartoons!” – Race winner and 2016 Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series season starts February 25th at Daytona International Speedway.

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My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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