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Daniel Suarez: ‘It hurts to be close’ after earning career-best result at Pocono

Daniel Suarez is disappointed not to finish first, but is able to gain valuable experience after earning second place at the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Even after the best weekend of his Cup career, Daniel Suarez was left disappointed.

Following his second-place finish to teammate Kyle Busch Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Suarez told NBCSN, “It hurts to be close.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his career-best finish through 57 starts Sunday after leading a career-high 29 laps from the pole, the first of his career.

But the 26-year-old driver was unable to get his No. 19 Toyota around Busch over the last seven laps, which saw two restarts, one of them in overtime.

“I thought I was better than Kyle and the 18 guys on new tires for five, seven laps or so,” Suarez told NBCSN. “But on the longer run he was better than me, he was just turning better for whatever reason. I was getting too tight. I was trying to adjust my tools as much as I could to free the car up a little bit, but it wasn’t helping the rotation, what I needed.”

The final restart saw Suarez, Busch and fellow JGR driver Erik Jones go three wide into Turn 1.

“The last restart it was very good on my side,” Suarez said. “I was side drafting (Busch) very well. I was even with him, and because we were even, (Jones) was coming with a big run, and when I saw him coming, I started blocking him but instead of pushing me he decided to try to take the lead, as well, and after that obviously it was ‑‑ I put myself in attack mode but defense mode at the same time.”

Said Busch: “I was just nervous for that fact, that we were all going to race down into Turn 1 and not really know what grip level we all had (on tires). Bombs going off everywhere and figuring out where we were going to land at the end of it.”

It was Busch who came out ahead as Suarez and Jones fought for what was left.

Busch added “humbly” that part of him regretted being the one to win the race.

“I kind of feel bad I was the guy that was in front of Daniel when he finished second, he could of won,” Busch said. “He was right there with us all day long. He trailed us that whole run and I couldn’t shake him, I couldn’t get away from him.”

Suarez bettered his previous best result by one spot. He placed third at Dover earlier this year and last season at Watkins Glen International, the road course the series returns to this weekend.

Suarez led 14 laps there last season.
“I was just talking about that, how good is this result for our race team and for everyone in the 19 group because we know how good we run in the Glen, and we had a good result my first time there in the Cup car,” Suarez said. “We are not expecting anything less. We have good momentum right now on our side, and hopefully we can keep that going.”