CONCORD, North Carolina — Entering the first turn of the overtime finish of Saturday night’s All-Star Race, Daniel Suarez thought he had a chance.
Then the gut feeling he had before the green flag waved proved accurate.
“I knew that two Fords together are dangerous,” Suarez said after finishing second in the race.
Suarez, who had raced his way into the main event by winning Stage 2 in the 50 lap Monster Energy Open, began the overtime restart in second in the inside lane.
Behind him was Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
“I was trying to somehow on the radio, obviously that didn’t work, to keep them away from each other,” Suarez said. “Kevin did a good job. I think in the previous restart, he went on the bottom, then he went up top. I think he did the right decision, trying to find the right guy behind him to push him to the lead.
“Denny, like I say, he did a very good job. For whatever reason, we just disconnected. He couldn’t keep moving forward.”
When Hamlin’s push failed and Logano’s succeeded, Harvick pulled ahead of Suarez’s No. 19 Toyota as the field charged down the backstretch.
In a two-lap shootout, no one had a chance.
Until then Suarez thought he “had the car capable to win the race.”
The 26-year-old driver was competing in his second All-Star Race. For the second consecutive year Suarez won a stage in the Open to make the field. He led a race-high 18 laps in addition to his stage win.
Suarez didn’t think the 50 extra laps in the Open offered him any advantage over his competitors in the main event when it came to figuring out how to master the special rules package, which included restrictor plates, a taller spoiler and larger splitter.
“What I learned is that the top came in actually faster and quicker than what I was expecting,” Suarez said. “I’m sure that these guys, they find out at exactly the same time (as) me. Maybe even sooner, because they were watching everyone, and I was just watching a few cars.
“I don’t feel like I had any advantage. For sure I was able to adjust my car a little bit for that. But other than that, I feel like we were in the same boat.”
Suarez never led a lap, but he came within a corner of winning the third stage before he was passed by Harvick.
Of the three drivers who advanced to the All-Star Race from the Open via a stage win, Suarez was the only one who finished in the top five.
“I feel like we did everything that we could,” Suarez said. “If I would have to do it again, I’m not sure what I would do different. The car was driving well, maybe a little bit tight at times, but I was loose as well. I don’t know. I feel like just different circumstances maybe could give us the victory. Just didn’t work out.”