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Daniel Suarez Scores Atlanta Victory in Unreal Three-Wide Photo Finish

The Monterrey, Mexico native scored his second victory in the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, beating Kyle Busch and defending series champion Ryan Blaney to the start-finish line by the narrowest of margins.

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Many in the industry have circled the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series campaign as make or break for Daniel Suarez, in what will be his eighth full-time campaign at NASCAR’s top level, and his fourth season with Trackhouse Racing.

Just two races into said ‘make-or-break season’ Suarez is driving his No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro into Victory Lane, after scoring a thrilling victory in Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the second win of his Cup Series career, and his first on an oval.

Late in Sunday’s 260-lap contest, the 32-year-old driver found himself in contention for the victory at the 1.5-mile superspeedway-like facility, battling alongside some of the quickest cars all afternoon in Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, and Kyle Busch.

While fighting hard in the caution-plagued final laps of the event, Suarez made a single mistake with five laps remaining, a slow block on defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney, which caused him to lose control of the race.

It took seven of the remaining seven-and-a-half miles for Suarez to get himself back in position after a last-lap move on the backstretch by Kyle Busch left the top three drivers side-by-side-by-side through the final set of corners and down to the start-finish line.

At the start-finish line, in a finish too close to call by the naked eye, Suarez was 0.003 seconds ahead of runner-up finisher Ryan Blaney, and just 0.007 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch, who despite being the one to make the move for the victory, finished in third.

“It was so damn close, man. It was so damn close. It was good racing. Ryan Blaney there, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric was also doing a great job giving pushes,” said Suarez on the frontstretch after the race. “In the back straightaway he didn’t push me because he knew I was going to f--- his teammate, but man, what a job. We wrecked on lap two. The guys did an amazing job fixing this car. I can’t thank everyone enough, Trackhouse Racing, Freeway Insurance, Chevrolet, all the amazing fans here. Let’s go.”

For Suarez, it’s his first victory on an oval in the NASCAR Cup Series, making him the third foreign-born driver to capture an oval victory at NASCAR’s top level, behind Mario Andretti and Earl Ross. In addition, it’s the seventh victory for Trackhouse Racing in its fourth season of competition.

To make matters even better, it’s the third NASCAR Cup Series victory for crew chief Matt Swiderski, who joined Trackhouse Racing as the new crew chief of the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro this season, making Sunday his second race working with Suarez.

Blaney and Busch came home in second and third place, while Austin Cindric, who appeared to have one of the fastest cars all afternoon, managed to bring home a finish of fourth place. Bubba Wallace finished fifth, making him the only driver to score top-fives in both races so far in 2024.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished in sixth, while Ross Chastain, polesitter Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, and Ty Gibbs completed the top-10. The majority of the race’s top-10 finishers were caught up in one if not multiple accidents.

That includes race-winner Daniel Suarez, sustaining damage in a 19-car pileup on the second lap of Sunday’s event, which also gave damage to fifth-place finisher Bubba Wallace, and tenth-place finisher Ty Gibbs, amongst several others.

Truth be told, Sunday’s race provided no shortage of excitement — which a lot of times leads to no shortage of accidents, either. A total of 10 cautions were displayed for 65 laps, which saw 34 of the 37 drivers competing in the event sustain damage in at least one accident.

The only exceptions to that were Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. — all of whom recorded finishes inside the top-10. In addition to the excessive number of cautions, the race also featured a whopping 48 lead changes, a record for Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Leaving Atlanta, Suarez joins William Byron as the two drivers who should have a guaranteed spot in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, after sweeping the first two races of the season for Chevrolet.

-- Image Courtesy of Alex Slitz, Getty Images

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