Daniel Suarez with RR-AZ Devil Woman, Lisa Wheat
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway was setting up to be a dominant win for 18-year-old William Byron. But with 10 laps to go, both the race win and the hope of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship went up in smoke for the driver of the No. 9 Liberty University Toyota Tundra.
Instead it was his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Daniel Suárez who took home the victory. The driver of the No. 51 ARRIS Toyota held off Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 21 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet, on a restart with five laps to go to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win by 0.551 seconds. The triumph was Suárez’s second NASCAR win at PIR after a victory in the 2014 NASCAR Mexico Series race.
“The first victory in every series is always the most difficult to get,” said Suárez, who averaged 84.441 mph for the 150 miles. “Then it seems like you just keep getting more and more, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m just very proud of this team for their effort. I feel really bad for Byron. He’s been doing a really, really good job the entire year with very fast trucks. He’s had a lot of wins and has been very consistent, but things like this happen in racing sometimes. It’s very unfortunate.”
Byron has six wins this season, but will not advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead after his blown engine. The Charlotte driver led 112 laps, but finished 27th.
“I don’t know what happened,” Byron said. “I think the motor just blew up. There were flames coming out of the car. Just stinks, man. These guys have worked so hard. We had the best truck for sure, and I guess we can take pride in that. But it’s just really unfortunate. I can’t thank these Liberty University guys enough and Kyle Busch Motorsports. It’s been an awesome year. We’ll try to finish it off in Homestead.”
The four drivers that will be competing for the championship next week are Sauter, who won the first two races of this Chase round; No. 88 Matt Crafton, who finished third; No. 4 Christopher Bell, who finished seventh; and No. 17 Timothy Peters, who finished fifth. The other contender who was eliminated was No. 33 Ben Kennedy, who finished ninth but started the race last in points among the six championship candidates and really needed a top-five finish to have any hope to advance.
There were nine cautions, four coming in the first 25 laps. Most were single or multi-car wrecks on restarts where close, aggressive racing was plentiful.
Also on Friday, Tucson, Ariz., native Alex Bowman earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole award driving the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Man, it’s amazing,” said Bowman. “We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice (earlier on Friday). I don’t really know where that came from, but I just can’t thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough. To do this in Phoenix, so close to home, means so much to me. We have had such fast race cars. We haven’t had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot.”
Suárez will be back in action at Phoenix Raceway tomorrow, as he competes in the Ticket Galaxy 200 for a spot in the Championship 4 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.