Daniel Suarez moving in ‘right direction’ after first top five on oval

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Through the first 10 races of 2018, Daniel Suarez believes he had cars capable of placing in the top five and top 10.

“We just haven’t been able to get the deal done,” he said.

Suarez was able to do that Sunday at Dover International Speedway, finishing third for his second career top five and earning his career-best result on an oval.

In placing behind race winner Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver matched his previous career-best result of third last summer at Watkins Glen International.

Suarez started seventh, his first top 10 start since Atlanta (fourth) and placed fourth in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2.

Suarez credited his pit crew for putting him in a spot to compete in the top five.

“My pit crew did an amazing job right there in the last stop,” Suarez said of the pit stop that came after a red flag with 80 laps to go. He restarted fourth, gaining six spots in the pits.

“They did it right when it counts, so very proud of those guys,” Suarez said. “The team actually did great adjustments to help me in the short run when we were struggling a little bit and we were able to keep the third place, which is good for us. In the beginning of the season, we had some struggles and now finally it seems like we’re going in the right direction.”

Entering Dover, Suarez had three top 10s with a best finish of eighth (Phoenix). He had one DNF, but had finished off the lead lap six times. In his last three races he had finished 11th (Bristol) and 10th twice (Richmond, Talladega).

“I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results,” Suarez said. “The (last) month‑and‑a‑half, couple months, has been more relaxed, just trying to have fun and trying to get things going by itself, and definitely things are working better that way.”

Suarez’s previous best finish on an oval was sixth three times, in last season’s spring race at Dover, at New Hampshire and at Charlotte.

Dover is also the site of one of his three Xfinity Series wins.

Suarez now heads to Kansas Speedway for the first visit to a 1.5-mile track in four races. The sophomore driver finished seventh in that race last year and crashed out of the fall race.

“It’s always good when you have a good result and you have to go next week to try to match that or go even better,” Suarez said. “Definitely proud of my team, and right now I’m looking forward to working with my team and trying to go to Kansas just as strong as we did on this weekend.”