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Daniel Suarez fast again, gets the result on dirt at Bristol

Joey Logano wins on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt to become the 7th different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race this season.

One week ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Daniel Suarez had a top-10 performance and looked poised to finish there - until a speeding penalty on his last pit stop relegated him to 17th at day’s end.

But during Monday’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Suarez had even better pace. This time, there were no setbacks.

Suarez’s fourth-place finish was the first top five for new Cup organization Trackhouse Racing. It was also his first top five since November 2019 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished third for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It’s the second week in a row that we’ve been running strong,” Suarez said after the race. “I don’t see this as, ‘Ok, we ran good because we’re on dirt.’ I feel like everyone at Trackhouse Racing has done an incredible job to work hard on these cars and get them better. (There’s) really a lot of support from RCR (Richard Childress Racing) - engines and chassis and everything.

“I feel like we still have a long ways to go from where we want to be, but we’re heading in the right direction. Hopefully, we can compete in the top 10, top five like we’ve been doing the last couple weeks on a weekly basis. Eventually, we’re going to get a trophy.”

Earlier this month, Suarez described the “potential” he saw in his new organization. During that same teleconference, he also said he had never raced on dirt before.

Last week, Suarez turned his first laps on dirt at Smoky Mountain Speedway (Maryville, Tennessee) to prepare for the Bristol weekend. In addition to running the Cup race, Suarez would run the Camping World Truck Series race for Young’s Motorsports.

After two days of bad weather, Suarez finally pulled double duty Monday at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile.” He finished 17th in the Truck race before stepping into his Cup ride.

Starting 18th, Suarez found himself inside the top 10 at the Lap 50 competition caution. He climbed as high as second place before ending the first stage in fourth place.

Suarez moved back into second place on the restart to begin the second stage at Lap 103, then slowly reeled in Martin Truex Jr. before taking the lead on a bump-and-run at Lap 135.

During the Lap 150 competition caution, Suarez told Fox Sports from pit road with a laugh: “Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m doing.”

Suarez finished second in the stage behind eventual race winner Joey Logano. But before the final 50-lap stage began, a period of track preparation took place on the Bristol half-mile.

The changes were not to Suarez’s liking.

“They did a lot of things to the racetrack - to some cars, it came to them; some others, they lost the balance a little bit,” Suarez said. “Unfortunately, I was one of those that lost the balance a little bit. For some reason, my rear grip wasn’t the same. I felt that my car was capable to challenge for the race lead before that. I kind of like had a plan in my mind.

“The last 50 laps, for some reason, I lost that grip. I just couldn’t do much about it. From being a first- or second-place car, I became a fifth- to fourth-place car. That’s exactly where we ended.”

Suarez chalked it up to being on a “learning curve” with dirt. He’ll have another opportunity next spring at Bristol to put that lesson learned into practice.

But after Monday’s great run, he and Trackhouse will enjoy the Easter weekend off before turning their attention back to asphalt at Martinsville Speedway.

“For now, I’m really looking forward to sitting down a little bit, relax for a few days, try to see everything that we have done the last month and a half, either good or bad, and what can we do better,” Suarez said.

“But I definitely believe that this team is very good and we just keep getting better and better. I’m just very excited and happy to be back racing with these guys.”

“I feel like Martinsville has been a good place for me in the past. ... I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun there.”