HAMPTON, Ga. — Daniel Suarez triumphed Sunday in one of the most wild races in recent years as he won the third-closest victory since NASCAR went to electronic timing.

Suarez won by 0.003 seconds over Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch as they went three-wide across the Atlanta Motor Speedway finish line after a race that had 48 lead changes and six multicar wrecks.

“It was amazing,” Suarez said. “You have no idea how happy I am right now.”

The victory snapped a 57-race winless streak as Suarez earned his second Cup victory.

His first win came in 2022 at Sonoma, so the victory gave the 2016 Xfinity Series champion his first victory on an oval. He is the only Mexican-born driver to win in the Cup Series.

Takeaways after a race where Suarez, Blaney and Busch were followed by Austin Cindric and Bubba Wallace to round out the top 5.

Suarez Wins At The Line

With the Atlanta Motor Speedway reconfiguration a few years ago with increased banking and a narrower surface, drivers rely on the aerodynamic draft as they do at Daytona and Talladega, where they run in packs and need a push to help make the pass.

That resulted in some of the craziness on Sunday. NASCAR had to review video of the finish before declaring Suarez the winner even though its electronic timing had indicated Suarez was the winner as he was on the outside lane by the wall, finishing inches ahead of Blaney (on the inside) and Busch (in the middle).

“I was trying to time the side-draft on the 8 [of Busch],” Suarez said. “I didn’t know where the 12 [of Blaney] was. I couldn’t see the 12. … I was just hoping. I thought I was first. The [team] told me we got it but then we are under review, and I said, ‘Dammit.’

“Every time you get to win races is special but to win in this fashion, this close with two other great drivers is quite special.”

‘It was so damn close’ – Daniel Suarez after winning the Ambetter Health 400

The Trackhouse Racing team thought it had won but had to wait to celebrate until NASCAR made it official. The only closer finishes since NASCAR began using electronic timing more than 20 years ago came in March 2003 at Darlington and April 2011 at Talladega.

“I saw on TV and timing and scoring that we had won, so I wasn’t going to accept anything different,” Suarez crew chief Matt Swiderski said. “I was convinced myself.

“When they showed the first slow-motion video as it started to come up, I started to get a little bit of doubt, and the angle I had, it didn’t look great. But when they finally froze it there and showed [the finish and]I felt fairly confident that we had it.”

Oh So Close

The drivers who finished inches short were somewhat philosophical. Certainly, Blaney (the 2022 Cup champion with 10 career Cup wins) and Busch (the 2015 and 2019 Cup champion with 63 career Cup wins) have had their share of victories and close ones.

“I can’t complain,” Blaney said. “I’ve won them by very, very little, too, so I can’t complain too much when I lose them by that much.”

Blaney had not seen a replay when he started talking to reporters and then saw it as it came up on a big screen in his sight.

“Holy s—,” Blaney said. “That’s so close.”

‘That was so close’ – Ryan Blaney reacts to seeing the photo finish at the Ambetter Health 400

Busch said Suarez was in the best spot to get the momentum in the draft and slow others down with the side draft.

“Typically whoever is behind getting into [Turn] 3 prevails at the start-finish line with the side draft and everything,” Busch said. “I was second to [Blaney] right there, and the 99 [of Suarez] was the furthest back, and he made the ground back up with the side draft and stuff. 

“I don’t think you could stop [it].”

Blocks, Spins Gone Awry

Several contenders saw their days end with wrecks.

Joey Logano led 27 laps, but he attempted to block Chris Buescher, a move that resulted in Buescher running into the back of Logano near the end of the second stage.

“I made a mistake,” Logano said. “I thought I could get in there. By the time I realized I couldn’t get there, I tried to turn down. And once he starts packing air on my right rear, I couldn’t turn down.

“I got tight, and it sucked me into the wall.”

Denny Hamlin discusses his crash ‘trifecta’ in each stage of the Ambetter Health 400

Denny Hamlin spoke with Bob Pockrass and described the accidents he was in, as he deadpanned that he hit the “trifecta” of a wreck in each stage.

The wreck collected Denny Hamlin, who was tapped by Busch early and then collected by Chase Briscoe late in the event. Hamlin deadpanned that he was involved in the “trifecta” with a wreck in each stage.

“I feel like a victim but I don’t know,” Hamlin said. “[Briscoe] ended up spinning out, I guess I ran into, but I was four-wide and I didn’t have anywhere to go. … There’s just no room.

“And the 8 [of Busch] spun us, but I don’t even know — I was caught off-guard.”

Briscoe wasn’t sure what happened: “I got put in a bad spot down the back straightaway. Somebody was on my right-rear and it kind of shuffled me to the left.  I think we were three or four-wide and it felt like somebody hit me in the left-rear getting into three, but I could have just got loose from the air. I’m not really sure.”

Another driver whose car broke free from him to trigger a wreck was Brad Keselowski, a wreck that ended the day of Kyle Larson, who led 17 laps.

“My car just took off in the middle of the corner,” Keselowski said. “I don’t know if it dumped or I lost the rear tire.

“Once I got up to the wall I couldn’t get it off the wall.  It’s a shame.  We were in good position.  We ran up front most of the day and made good adjustments on the car.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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