Daniel Suarez ‘lucky’ to escape Clint Bowyer spin, Matt DiBenedetto near-win


BRISTOL, Tenn. — Daniel Suarez admits he got “lucky” twice Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He was more enthusiastic about the first instance of luck, which struck on Lap 243.

That’s when his teammate and fellow winless driver, Clint Bowyer, accidentally cut down on the No. 27 of Quin Houff entering Turn 1, which sent Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford sliding toward the exit of Turn 2.

“It’s short track racing,” Bowyer said. “You’re making split decisions. I was trying to pass those two cars and get more stage points for us. I clipped him. It was nothing he did. I was just trying to shoot the gap. I had a run on those guys and was trying to do all I could.”

Bowyer’s car began backing up toward the outside wall, while Suarez’s No. 41 Ford was fast approaching the same area.

The two cars came so close to hitting, Suarez’s spotter mistakenly thought they had.

“I’m probably a little lucky and a little good,” Suarez said after his eighth-place finish. “It worked out pretty good. It was tight, it was pretty, pretty tight.”

Avoiding his teammate allowed him to benefit from pit strategy.

With the caution coming so close to the end of Stage 2, most of the leaders visited the pits. But Suarez stayed out and managed to finish second, earning nine stage points.

Those points, along with his eighth-place finish put him 16th in points with two races left in the regular season. He has a two-point advantage over Bowyer, who failed to earn any stage points Saturday night.

“I feel like that was probably the biggest thing of the day,” Suarez said of the move to stay out at the end of the stage. “I feel like that was an amazing call from my crew chief Billy Scott.”

Suarez was less enthusiastic about where else he was lucky. Denny Hamlin passed Matt DiBenedetto with 12 laps to go and raced to his fourth win of the year. That deprived DiBenedetto of his first win of the year and means there’s still seven spots left in the 16-driver playoff field.

“I feel like he deserved the win, but you never know how things are going to work out,” Suarez said of DiBenedetto. “I feel like I have to do my race and let everything else play out by itself. I can control that. I would tell you that in a way I’m kind of lucky that he didn’t win. But I wish he was winning the race because he’s an amazing driver, he deserves a ride.”

Bowyer, who survived his spin and fought back to finish seventh, was very mellow after his first top-10 finish in five races.

“All in all it was a good weekend for us. Kind of a rebound weekend, what we needed,” Bowyer said. “We did all we could do. I was hoping to be a top-five car and when you’re a top-five car here you’ve got a chance to win. But we were just a beat off of that all night.”

Bowyer said on a short track like Bristol “you’re not worried about” points.

“You’re worried about keeping up with the race track, keeping up with your adjustments, traffic and stuff like that,” Bowyer said. “You don’t have time to screw with that.”

But with two races left in the regular season, Bowyer and his Stewart-Haas Racing team have even less time to screw around before the playoffs begin.

“Gotta do what we gotta do,” Bowyer said. “Let’s go race, you know what I mean? Just got to perform the way we can perform and do our thing.”

When it came to a playoff spot being saved by DiBenedetto not winning, Bowyer said “I hate it for that guy. He’s racing for a job and everything else.”

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at goprn.com; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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