Suárez edges Blaney and Busch in three-wide finish for second Cup career victory at Atlanta

In a three-wide photo finish for the ages, Daniel Suárez bested NASCAR Cup Series champions Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch to score a wild victory in the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, February 25.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Suárez said after the race. “This team did an amazing job all race long. We wrecked on Lap two. The guys fixed the car and we were able to make it good again, make it fast again. It took some tweaking, but unbelievable. Freeway Insurance, Trackhouse, Chevrolet, and all the people that believed in us from day one – it’s unbelievable to do this in this fashion.”

The 2016 Xfinity Series champion from Monterrey, Mexico, led twice for nine of 260 scheduled laps in an event where he was involved in a 16-car pileup on the second lap. Amid the early incident, Suárez persevered through nine additional caution periods to methodically carve his way back to the front, where he would lead for the first time with 12 laps remaining. During a five-lap shootout to the finish, Suárez, who lost the lead to Ryan Blaney, was left to battle Kyle Busch dead even for the runner-up spot during the next four laps.

Then on the final lap, both Suárez and Busch took Blaney in a tight three-wide battle in front of the stacked field through the final two turns. All three competitors remained dead even against one another through the frontstretch until Suárez just managed to emerge ahead of both Blaney and Busch by a nose to claim his second NASCAR Cup Series career victory and snap a one-year winless drought.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, February 24, Michael McDowell achieved his first Cup Series pole position of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 178.844 mph in 30.999 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Joey Logano, who clocked in the second-fastest qualifying speed at 178.424 mph in 31.072 seconds.

Prior to the event, however, Logano dropped to the rear of the field and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty through pit road at the start of the event due to wearing illegal gloves and violating NASCAR’s SFI specification. Chase Elliott also dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to his entry.

When the green flag waved and the event commenced, McDowell and Kyle Busch, who moved up to the front row, dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Busch, who was drafted by Kyle Larson on the inside lane, quickly moved in front of McDowell entering the backstretch. McDowell, however, fought back as he transitioned from the outside to inside lane, but Busch was able to muscle ahead from the outside lane and lead the first lap.

Following the completion of the first lap, however, the first caution flew after a checkup towards the front of the pack caused by Gilliland on the outside lane resulted with Austin Dillon, who was running in the top 10 and ran into the rear of Austin Cindric, getting hit by Martin Truex Jr. as he spun his No. 3 BREZTRI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 exiting the frontstretch, which then triggered a multi-car wreck entering Turn 1 that collected Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Noah Gragson, Alex Bowman, John Hunter Nemechek, Erik Jones, rookie Carson Hocevar, Daniel Suárez, Elliott, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece, BJ McLeod and Harrison Burton.

During the event’s first caution period, a bevy of names that included Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., rookie Zane Smith, Logano and the wrecked competitors pitted while the rest led by Busch remained on the track. By then, Josh Williams took his Kaulig Racing entry to the garage due to a mechanical issue.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 10, Busch quickly transitioned from the outside to inside lane to retain the lead in front of a side-by-side duel in front of McDowell and Larson through the first two turns and the backstretch. Larson then challenged Busch with a move to the inside lane and he managed to slide in front of Busch’s No. 8 Cheddar’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead. Busch, however, responded back by overtaking Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 during the following lap as he would retain the lead while Chris Buescher challenged Larson for the runner-up spot.

Through the first 15 scheduled laps, Busch was leading ahead of Chase Briscoe and Larson while McDowell and Buescher followed suit in front of two tight-packed lanes. With the field slowing fanning out to three lanes while spread out around the Atlanta circuit, Busch, who was swapping against Larson for the lead a few laps earlier, continued to lead by the Lap 20 mark ahead of Larson while McDowell, Blaney and Buescher battled in the top five. Behind, Briscoe was in sixth while William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Denny Hamlin, Truex, Zane Smith, Gilliland, Ty Gibbs and LaJoie occupied the top 15 on the track.

Nearing the Lap 25 mark, the event’s second caution flew after Buescher, who was running in the top 10, got loose and spun his No. 17 Ford Mustang Dark Horse in front of William Byron entering Turn 4, though he was dodged by oncoming traffic and was able to limp his entry to pit road for four fresh tires. During the caution period, some led by Byron pitted while the rest led by new race leader Ryan Blaney remained on the track.

At the start of the proceeding restart on Lap 31, Blaney muscled ahead on the outside lane and fended off Larson through the first two turns and the backstretch until Larson fought back on the inside lane, with both dueling for the lead in front of Busch, Briscoe, McDowell and Denny Hamlin. Amid the two-pack formation towards the front, Blaney retained the top spot until Busch rocketed his way back to the lead just past the Lap 33 mark. With Busch leading, McDowell battled dead even with Blaney for the runner-up spot while Chastain, Larson, Briscoe and Truex followed suit by the Lap 35 mark.

Through the first 40 scheduled laps, Busch continued to lead in front of McDowell, Blaney, Chastain, Larson, Briscoe, Truex, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace while Byron, rookie Josh Berry, LaJoie, Logano, Gilliland, Cindric, Ty Gibbs, Keselowski, Zane Smith and Justin Haley were running in the top 20 amid two tight-packed lanes.

Ten laps later and with the field dispersed, McDowell, who reassumed the top spot on Lap 41, was still leading in front of Blaney, Busch, truex and Larson while Hamlin, Chastain, Briscoe, Stenhouse and Wallace were running in the top 10 in front of Byron, Logano, LaJoie, Cindric and Keselowski.

Another two laps later, the caution flew after Hamlin, who was battling for a top-five spot on the track, made contact with Kyle Busch as he spun his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry XSE through the frontstretch’s grass before coming to a stop just towards the exit of pit road. During the caution period, a majority of the field pitted while the rest led by McDowell remained on the track.

With the event restarting with a single lap remaining to the first stage’s period, McDowell and Blaney dueled for the lead exiting the frontstretch and through the first two turns until McDowell started to muscle ahead from the inside lane with drafting help from Chastain. As the field behind fanned out to three lanes through Turns 3 and 4, McDowell was able to muscle ahead and capture his first stage victory of the season on Lap 60. Blaney settled in second followed by Chastain, Larson and Busch while Truex, Stenhouse, Wallace, Byron and Gilliland, all of whom earned the first wave of stage points, were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, some led by McDowell pitted while the rest led by teammate Gilliland remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Blaney nearly collided with Ryan Preece while trying to exit his pit stall amid a congested pit road stretch with those who pitted.

The second stage period started on Lap 67 as Gilliland and Logano occupied the front row. At the start, Gilliland and Logano dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Gilliland, who received a strong push from LaJoie on the inside lane, muscled ahead and managed to slide in front of Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang Dark Horse through the backstretch. With Buescher, LaJoie and Zane Smith following suit, Gilliland retained the lead in front of Logano as Josh Berry, Harrison Burton and Cindric joined the battle towards the front.

On Lap 72, Zane Smith, who was rim-riding towards the outside wall while running in the top five, made contact with the outside wall through Turns 3 and 4 after he got loose just as Logano slid up in front of him, which stalled his momentum as his No. 71 City of Refuge Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 slowly began to backslide through the field. With the field remaining under green flag conditions as Smith pitted, Gilliland retained the lead followed by Logano, Buescher, Berry and Harrison Burton while Elliott, Hamlin, Cindric, LaJoie and Ty Gibbs were running in the top 10 by the Lap 75 mark.

Through the first 80 scheduled laps and with the majority of the field running in tight-pack formation amid two lanes, Gilliland continued to lead in front of Ford teammates Logano, Buescher, Burton and McDowell, who carved his way from starting in the top 20, while Hamlin, who recovered from his early spin, was trying to mount a charge on the inside lane followed by Cindric. The top 28 competitors would be separated by more than two seconds by the Lap 85 mark as Gilliland retained the lead while McDowell moved up to third place and challenged Logano for more.

At the Lap 100 mark, Logano, who assumed the lead for the first time of the day a lap earlier, was leading in front of Gilliland, Buescher, Keselowski and McDowell while Burton, Byron, Hamlin, Blaney and Chastain were running in the top 10 in front of Larson, Cindric, Truex, Busch, Elliott, LaJoie, Wallace, Stenhouse, Daniel Suárez and Briscoe. By then, the top 28 competitors were separated by more than three seconds.

Fifteen laps later, Logano, who spent the previous 15 laps swapping the lead with Buescher and Gilliland, was leading ahead of Chastain and teammate Blaney while Buescher, Keselowski, Hamlin, Cindric, Burton, Larson and Byron followed suit in the top 10. By then, the majority of the field were running in two tight-packed lanes while some occurrences of three-wide racing occurred.

At the halfway mark on Lap 130, green flag pit stops slowly commenced as teammates Logano and Blaney pitted while Larson was leading in front of Cindric, Chastain, Keselowski, Byron and Hamlin. Cindric would then pit during the following lap as Keselowski challenged Larson for the lead. Keselowski would then lead Chastain and teammate Buescher to pit road through the venue’s pit road entrance towards the backstretch’s exit by Lap 133 before Hamlin led Truex, Elliott and Burton to pit road during the proceeding lap.

Then as Larson surrendered the lead to pit with the next wave of competitors on Lap 135, where he got bumped by Kyle Busch, Byron and McDowell spun and wrecked against one another while trying to enter the pit road’s commitment line towards the backstretch, though the event remained under green flag conditions as both proceeded. Amid the pit stops, Berry and Chastain were penalized for speeding on pit road.

With the first wave of green flag pit stops being completed by Lap 139, Cindric cycled his No. 2 Menards Ford Mustang Dark Horse into the lead followed by teammates Logano and Blaney while Gilliland followed suit in fourth place. In addition, Larson was in fifth while Buescher, Briscoe, Wallace, Suárez and Keselowski were scored in the top 10. Soon after, Wallace, Busch and Stenhouse were penalized for speeding on pit road while Erik Jones was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.

By Lap 150, Cindric retained the lead ahead of teammate Logano, Larson, teammate Blaney and Buescher while Gilliland, Briscoe, Truex, Suárez and Hamlin cycled their way into the top 10 ahead of Keselowski, Burton, Elliott, LaJoie, Justin Haley, Ty Gibbs, Kaz Grala, Carson Hocevar, Austin Dillon and John Hunter Nemechek.

Then on the final lap of the second stage period, the caution flew after Logano, who was trying to slide up in front of Buescher amid the draft, ran out of room as both collided against the outside wall through the backstretch, with Hamlin also getting collected in the wreckage while Keselowski barely dodged the incident. With the second stage period concluding under caution on Lap 160, Cindric, who nearly lost the lead to teammate Logano a few laps earlier, captured his first stage victory of the 2024 season. Larson settled in second followed by Blaney, Suárez and Truex while Gilliland, Keselowski, Burton, Briscoe and Elliott were scored in the top 10.

During the stage break, the entire lead lap field led by Cindic returned to pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Gilliland exited first followed by Keselowski, Elliott, Hamlin, Suárez and Burton while Cindric exited in 10th place.

With 90 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Gilliland and Keselowski occupied the front row. At the start, Gilliland and Keselowski dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Gilliland muscled ahead on the inside lane followed by Hamlin and Blaney. With Hamlin and Blaney swapping lanes exiting the backstretch, Gilliland maintained the lead on the frontstretch while Keselowski, Truex and Elliott followed suit in close-quarters racing and amid two tight-packed lanes. Amid the tight racing towards the front, Gilliland maintained the lead and control of both lanes during the proceeding laps while both Hamlin and Blaney were trying to gain runs amid their respective drafting lanes.

Not long after, the caution returned with 86 laps remaining after Kaz Grala, who was running in the top 10, made light contact with Kyle Busch amid a three-wide battle in Turn 1 as he slid sideways through the turn, but managed to keep his car off the track from oncoming traffic. During the caution period, some led by Blaney, Elliott and Cindric pitted while the rest led by Gilliland remained on the track.

During the proceeding restart with 80 laps remaining, Gilliland received a push from Truex’s No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry XSE to muscle ahead from Hamlin on the inside lane through the first two turns and the backstretch while the rest of the field behind fanned out and battled in two tight-packed lanes. With Briscoe, Keselowski, Larson, Elliott and Suárez making their moves to the front, Truex would then grab the lead two laps later over Gilliland through a strong move entering the backstretch while Hamlin remained in third place amid a tight battle with Briscoe. Another three laps later, however, Gilliland cycled his No. 38 Georgia Peanuts Ford Mustang Dark Horse back into the lead from Truex. Meanwhile, Keselowski was battling Briscoe and Larson for third place while Hamlin slipped to sixth.

With 65 laps remaining, Larson, who returned to the lead two laps earlier, was leading, but mixed in a tight battle to maintain the top spot in front of Gilliland, Truex, Hamlin and Keselowski while Suárez, Briscoe, Elliott, Cindric and Burton followed suit in the top 10. Behind, LaJoie was in 11th ahead of Blaney, Kyle Busch, Ty Gibbs and Haley while Hocevar, Daniel Hemric, Grala, Preece and McDowell occupied the top 20.

Three laps later and with the field fanning out to three lanes amid the late jostling of spots, the caution returned after Elliott, who was marching his way through the top-10 ranks, got bumped by Chastain and sent sideways entering Turn 3 as he managed to keep his No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 spinning below the apron and away from oncoming traffic, though Ty Gibbs also veered sideways to avoid hitting Elliott. Amid the chaos, Wallace, who was battling Chastain for the free pass spot by being the first competitor scored a lap down, managed to receive the free pass.

During the caution period, the lead lap field led by Truex pitted, mainly for fuel, while McDowell and Preece remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Truex exited pit road first followed by teammate Hamlin, Briscoe, Cindric, Keselowski and Larson while Gilliland exited eighth behind Busch.

With the event restarting under green with 55 laps remaining, McDowell and Truex dueled for the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch. They continued to duel for the lead in front of two tight-packed lanes through the frontstretch and back to the frontstretch while Austin Dillon, who was running in the middle of the pack, fell off the pace after he pounded the backstretch’s outside wall hard, though the event remained under green flag conditions.

Then with 50 laps remaining and with the field fanned out to three tight-packed lanes, a four-wide action for the lead ensued between Truex, Briscoe, McDowell and Cindric through the frontstretch as Cindric, who instigated the four-wide move, moved into the lead entering Turns 1 and 2. Busch would follow suit in second through the backstretch along with Briscoe, Gilliland, Hamlin and McDowell amid the four-wide battle while Truex, who was getting bumped and jostled amid the fanned-out battles, was slowly backsliding. The field would then settle to three-wide racing for the following lap as Cindric retained the lead followed by Busch, Hamlin, Briscoe and Gilliland while Keselowski and Larson followed suit.

With 44 laps remaining, Hamlin overtook Cindric from the outside lane for the lead. During the following lap, Briscoe tried to move in front of Hamlin for the lead, but the move did not prevail as Busch overtook Briscoe for the runner-up spot while Hamlin maintained the lead. The caution, however, would return with 42 laps remaining after Keselowski, who was running third, got loose and slid towards the outside wall entering Turn 3 as he collected Larson and LaJoie in the process. During the caution period, some including McDowell and Elliott pitted while the rest led by Hamlin remained on the track.

As the event restarted with 35 laps remaining, Hamlin muscled ahead from the inside lane followed by Busch while Cindric was left to fend off Briscoe and the rest of the pack in third place. Hamlin would retain the lead during the proceeding laps and with 30 laps remaining over Busch while Blaney and Briscoe battled for third place in front of two tight-packed lanes. Shortly after, however, Busch and Blaney went three wide on Hamlin as they both overtook Hamlin and moved into a battle into the lead for themselves followed by Gilliland and Cindric while Hamlin slid back to sixth in front of Wallace.

With less than 25 laps remaining and with the intensity towards the front igniting amid three tight-packed lanes, Blaney was leading the race ahead of teammate Cindric and Busch while Wallace and Briscoe battled for fourth in front of the field.

With 21 laps remaining, however, the caution returned after Hamlin, who was pinned in a tight four-wide battle for fourth place with Briscoe, Suárez and Busch, made contact with Briscoe that sent Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford Mustang Dark Horse sideways and into Hamlin before Briscoe slapped the outside wall hard between Turns 3 and 4 as Burton, Berry and Haley were also collected. The incident was enough for the event to be placed in a red flag period for more than 11 minutes.

Once the red flag lifted and the field returned under a cautious pace, some including Gilliland, Hemric, Preece and Byron pitted while the rest led by Blaney remained on the track.

When the event restarted with 15 laps remaining, where Blaney and Suárez occupied the front row, Blaney muscled ahead on the inside lane followed by teammate Cindric and Truex while Suárez, who had Kyle Busch and Wallace drafting him, was trying to fight back on the outside lane through the backstretch. With Blaney leading the next two laps and having both lanes to his control, Suárez then made his move on the outside lane with 12 laps remaining through the backstretch as he led the next laps by a hair while Busch and Cindric followed suit in the second lane. Then during the following lap and as Cindric briefly lost his momentum through the first two turns, the caution flew after Berry, who was drafting Wallace in the top 10, ran into the outside wall entering the backstretch and spun back across the track, where he collided into rookie Carson Hocevar, before he spun back across the track and into oncoming traffic as Elliott also spun towards the infield. Amid the chaos, Suárez managed to retain the lead over Blaney.

Down to the final five laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Suárez and Blaney occupied the front row. At the start, Suárez muscled his No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ahead on the inside lane followed by Busch through the first two turns. Suárez then moved in front of Blaney to stall his momentum through the backstretch, but Blaney managed to stick his nose and draw even with Suárez exiting the backstretch as he assumed the lead followed by Truex. Blaney then retained the lead in front of two stacked lanes during the proceeding laps as he went on defense to fend off Suárez and Busch while Truex was backsliding.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Blaney remained as the leader ahead of a side-by-side battle involving Suárez and Busch. Blaney would continue to lead through the first two turns and through the majority of the backstretch until Busch and Suárez took Blaney three wide entering Turns 3 and 4. Suárez, Busch and Blaney remained dead even amid three lanes for the lead entering the frontstretch, with neither lifting. With the leaders navigating through the frontstretch, Suárez, Busch and Blaney crossed the finish line dead even as the checkered flag flew. Following an extensive review of the footage, Suárez was declared the winner as he had beaten Blaney by 0.003 seconds and 0.007 seconds over Busch.

With the victory, Suárez, who was in contention of winning this year’s Daytona 500 before he was eliminated amid a late multi-car wreck, earned his second Cup Series career victory, his first since winning his first series’ event at Sonoma Raceway in June 2022 and his first on a superspeedway venue. He also recorded the seventh career victory for Trackhouse Racing and his first with his new crew chief Matt Swiderski.

“It was so damn close,” Suárez, who celebrated with a piñata, said on FOX. “It was good racing. Ryan Blaney there, Kyle Busch. Austin Cindric also was doing a great job giving me pushes. In the back straightaway, he didn’t push me because he knew I was gonna fight his teammate. Man, what a job. We wrecked [on] Lap 2. The [No. 99] guys did an amazing job fixing this car. Man, I can’t thank everyone enough. Let’s go!”

Blaney, who led 31 laps, settled in the runner-up spot while Kyle Busch, who led 28 laps, ended up in third place following their dramatic three-wide finish with Suárez to the finish line.

Photo by John Knittel for

“I thought I laid back enough in [Turns] 1 and 2 to not let both lanes get that big of a run,” Blaney said. “Both lanes just got that shove super hard and I just chose the bottom [lane], safest place to be. What a cool finish. Appreciate the fans for sticking around. That’s a lot of fun. That’s always a good time when we can do that. Race clean, three-wide finish to the end. Happy for Daniel [Suárez]. That was cool to see. Fun racing with Kyle [Busch]. I’ve won [races] by very, very little [margin], too, so I can’t complain too much about losing by that much. Close.”

“Overall, just real proud of everybody at [Richard Childress Racing], ECR [Engines],” Busch added. “Our Cheddar’s Camaro was fast. It’s good to see Daniel [Suárez] get a win. We were helping each other, being Chevy team partners and working together there. It shows that when you do have friends and you can make alliances that they do seem to work and that was the good part of today. Dammit. We’ll have to do it again and find another one.”

Austin Cindric came home in fourth place while Bubba Wallace rallied from a roller coaster event to finish fifth for a second consecutive race. Stenhouse, Chastain, McDowell, Buescher and Ty Gibbs finished in the top 10 on the track.

There were 48 lead changes for 14 different leaders. The race featured 10 cautions for 65 laps. In addition, 22 of 37 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the second event of the 2024 Cup Series season, Kyle Busch leads the regular-season standings by a single point over both William Byron and Austin Cindric, three over Bubba Wallace, eight over Ryan Blaney, 12 over Chase Elliott and 13 over Daniel Suárez.


1. Daniel Suárez, nine laps led

2. Ryan Blaney, 31 laps led

3. Kyle Busch, 28 laps led

4. Austin Cindric, 32 laps led, Stage 2 winner

5. Bubba Wallace, three laps led

6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap led

7. Ross Chastain

8. Michael McDowell, 27 laps led, Stage 1 winner

9. Chris Buescher, one lap led

10. Ty Gibbs

11. Harrison Burton

12. Martin Truex Jr., nine laps led

13. Corey LaJoie

14. Kaz Grala

15. Chase Elliott

16. Ryan Preece

17. William Byron

18. Daniel Hemric

19. Carson Hocevar

20. Justin Haley

21. John Hunter Nemechek

22. Austin Dillon

23. Denny Hamlin, one lap down, 15 laps led

24. BJ McLeod, three laps down

25. Erik Jones , four laps down

26. Todd Gilliland, four laps led, 58 laps led

27. Alex Bowman, five laps down

28. Joey Logano, eight laps down, 27 laps led

29. Josh Berry – OUT, Accident

30. Tyler Reddick, 17 laps down

31. Chase Briscoe – OUT, Accident

32. Kyle Larson – OUT, Accident, 17 laps led

33. Brad Keselowski – OUT, Accident, two laps led

34. Christopher Bell – OUT, Accident

35. Zane Smith – OUT, DVP

36. Noah Gragson – OUT, Accident

37. Josh Williams – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, March 3, and air at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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