Daniel Suarez earns best Cup result with top-three finish at Watkins Glen

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It took 22 races, but rookie Daniel Suarez finally did two things he hadn’t accomplished to-date in his Cup career.

Suarez posted his best day yet as a Cup driver, finishing third in the I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International after also claiming his first stage win.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was unable to keep up with his teammate Matt Kenseth and race-winner Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps, a result of Suarez trying to save fuel in the closing laps around the road course.

“I’m very happy for the third-place (finish) and for the result and for the overall race,” Suarez said. “But (it’s) very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there and you are just cruising to try to save fuel because you don’t really know how much fuel you have left.”

Suarez wound up finishing 5.1 seconds behind Truex.

The 25-year-old driver did get a chance to reign supreme over Truex early in the race. Suarez successfully fended off Truex at the end of Stage 2, throwing a block on the No. 78 in Turn 6 before beating him to the finish line.

Suarez kept Truex from adding to his series-leading stage win total of 14.

“I knew that (Truex) was coming fast,” Suarez said. “I’m not sure if he had fresher tires or something, but he was coming very fast, and I was just trying to hold him off a little bit, and luckily we were able to do it.

“I knew that we’d raced each other very clean, and he’s been super strong the entire year, and I knew that he wasn’t going to do anything crazy and I wasn’t going to do anything crazy, either.

“It was just a little hard racing right there at the end, but congratulations to the 78. He did a really good job, and overall, like I said, it was a good, solid day for us. We just have to keep it up, and hopefully we can catch a break before the playoffs to make it.”

Suarez led the final 14 laps of the second stage, his most laps led this season. He led 11 laps at Daytona in July and one last week at Pocono.

The rookie who succeeded Carl Edwards now has four straight top-10 finishes. The stretch began with a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire, was seventh at both Indianapolis and Pocono and third Sunday in upstate New York.

“I think I mentioned in the beginning of the year that I was so looking forward to the second half of the year,” Suarez said. “I knew that the second half of the year we were going to be more competitive, and our second time at all these racetracks we were going to have enough book and we were going to go to those racetracks already knowing what to expect.

“You know, all the hard work from my team and from everyone in the 19 group and from Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD, Toyota, it’s paying off. In the beginning of the year, we were not like that. I wasn’t the same driver, either, and now I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We have speed pretty much every weekend now where we are running in the top 10. I don’t think it’s a surprise anymore to run in the top 10.”

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Points leader Elliott Sadler clinches Xfinity playoff spot after finishing third at Bristol

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Even though he hasn’t won this year, Elliott Sadler earned himself a spot in the Xfinity Series playoffs Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sadler is the fourth driver to qualify for the playoffs. He joins Ryan Reed, William Byron and Justin Allgaier, who clinched spots through race wins.

The JR Motorsports driver and the series points leader finished third in the Food City 300 for his ninth top five of the year.

“Man, we had a great car,” Sadler told NBCSN. “I hit the wall with like 50 to go. Then I threw my water bottle out and it got in the jack man’s way, messed us up. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Sadler has led the Xfinity Series point standings for the last 10 races and following 20 of the 22 races this year.

Following Sadler in the top five is William Byron (-110), Allgaier (-136), Brennan Poole (-186) and Daniel Hemric (-206).

Brendan Gaughan is on the playoff bubble. He is 43 points above the cutoff line. Ross Chastain is 13th on the playoff grid.

Click here for the point standings.

Results, stats for the Xfinity Series race at Bristol

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Kyle Busch won the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway for his fifth Xfinity Series win of the year.

He led 186 laps and swept all three stages.

Completing the top five were Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for full results.

Kyle Busch wins Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Kyle Busch once again dominated a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, winning Friday night’s Food City 300.

Busch led 186 laps on the way to the win, his fifth Xfinity Series victory of the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver fended off the field in a nine-lap shootout following a late caution.

The top five was completed by Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Busch moved one step closer to a sweep of the race week. He won Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race. If he wins Saturday’s Cup race, it will be the second time he’s swept all three Bristol races after doing it in 2010.

Just like Wednesday, Busch fought through the field after a mid-race speeding penalty to earn the win.

“At least I didn’t have to come through (the field) in the last stage because everybody was pretty fast there tonight in the last stage,” Busch said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to make it all the way back up through there. Suárez gave us a heck of a run there. I was trying to push hard and he was closing in on us a little bit there before that last caution came out. Once that caution came out everything cooled down and my car wasn’t even close to what it was before, so I don’t know how I held on to it. The car was just so sideways.”

The win is Busch’s 91st in the Xfinity Series.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Allgaier led twice for 75 laps and earned his sixth top five of the season … Sadler led once for 15 laps and clinched a spot in the playoffs … Ty Dillon earned his second top five of the season and beset finish in 19 starts … Joey Logano bounced back from a flat tire and going to two laps down to finish ninth.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ryan Reed and Aric Almirola wrecked on Lap 25 after they pinched Spencer Gallagher on the backstretch. Almirola finished 38th. … Reed caused the following caution after damage from the previous wreck cut a tire, sending him into the wall. Reed finished 37th … Brendan Gaughan had one unscheduled pit stop for a tire rub. He was then involved in a crash with 15 to go after being tagged by Jeb Burton, who had lost a tire. He finished 30th … William Byron lost a tire with less than 10 to go and had to pit. He finished 22nd.

NOTABLE: With his win, Busch is nine wins away from reaching 100 Xfinity wins. Busch has said he’ll retire from Xfinity competition once he reaches 100 … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th in his first Xfinity start of the year.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Two weeks in a row. I know he doesn’t have a lot of race and I like him a lot normally, but right now I’m going to knock the hell out of him. The first time he gave me a flat and the second time he says he blew a tire. If you know you’ve got a tire going then don’t drive underneath somebody. The last couple of weeks I’ve been driven with no respect. We put ourselves back in a decent spot and we’re going to go to Road America and win that sucker.” – Brendan Gaughan after his late wreck with Jeb Burton.

NEXT: Johnsonville 180 at Road America at 3 p.m. ET on Aug. 27 on NBC.

Starting lineup for Cup night race at Bristol

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Erik Jones and Kyle Larson will start on the front row of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC).

Jones starts from his first Cup pole.

Completing the top five are Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

Click here for the starting lineup.