The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin on September 4 with the Southern 500 Crown Jewel race. Daniel Suarez has the goal of moving to the next round, but he will start at a major disadvantage after a pre-race penalty.
NASCAR announced on September 3 that two entries had failed inspection multiple times. The No. 99 of Trackhouse Racing failed three times while the No. 78 of Live Fast Motorsports failed two times. BJ McLeod was able to post a qualifying lap after passing inspection on the third attempt, but Suarez did not receive this opportunity. The driver of the No. 99 will start from the rear of the field, and he will have to serve a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag.
Both teams that failed inspection multiple times lost out on their ability to select pit stalls for the Southern 500. NASCAR also ejected engineer Chris Stanley from the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports team and car chief Eddie D’Hondt Jr. from the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team.
“Yeah, we should be fine,” Suarez told media members after the entry failed three times. “It’s definitely not an ideal situation, but is what it is. We have to bounce back. We definitely won’t let this bring us down.”
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
Suarez Enters the Playoffs Below the Cutline
Starting from the rear and serving a pass-through penalty is not an ideal start to the playoffs for Suarez. He already enters as the 13th seed, one spot below the initial Round of 12 cutline, and he will have to make moves to claw his way back after the early setback.
There are two factors playing in Suarez’s favor. First, he is not far below the cutline. He enters the playoffs with 2,007 points, putting him only two points behind Chase Briscoe. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has 2,009 points and is nowhere near safe heading to one of the sport’s most difficult tracks.
The other factor playing Suarez’s favor is the length of the race. The last time the drivers headed to Darlington Raceway, May 8, they faced off over the course of 400.238 miles. This time they will complete 367 laps for a total of 501.3 miles. This distance should provide Suarez with enough time to work his way back from the pass-through penalty.
Suarez Had His Best Performance at Darlington in 2022
Suarez, who is in his second full-time season with Trackhouse Racing, has made nine starts at Darlington Raceway during his tenure as a full-time Cup Series driver. The most recent was the best of his career.
Suarez entered Throwback Weekend in May with a career-best finish of 11th at Darlington Raceway. He secured this finish in 2019 while driving the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. He also had a 13th-place finish at The Lady in Black in 2021 while driving for Trackhouse Racing.
The Monterrey native started the Goodyear 400 20th overall in the No. 99. He proceeded to secure a point during Stage 2 before avoiding some final-stage wrecks that collected multiple other drivers. Suarez ultimately finished Throwback Weekend 10th overall and kept himself within reach of a playoff spot.