The 2021 NASCAR Cup series gears up for its fifth race of the season at the iconic Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for the Instacart 500 on March 14.
The Phoenix International Raceway has seen many great drivers script NASCAR history over the years. Today we turn the clock back to an incident involving Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell in 2019. Things heated up between the two drivers in the first round of qualifying for the TicketGuardian 500. Tensions spilled over to the pit lane resulting in the two drivers duking it out.
The incident began when Suarez, driving for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at the time, was unable to get a pass from the No. 34 Ford of McDowell. The SHR driver believed this was a deliberate effort by McDowell which prevented Suarez from completing his lap at speed. This affected his starting spot (28th) in the race.
"Lack of respect. You know track position is very big in these races these days and you have to qualify well to have a good stall on pit road and to have a good start in the race. The race is long so you can always overcome that but it’s just a lack of respect," said the NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez in disgust.
"Everyone in the garage knows the second lap is a good one. You have to try to get out of the way if someone is coming on a hot lap and he didn’t. He killed me on one corner, I thought he was going to get out of the way in that second corner and he didn’t and I almost wrecked him and then he was disappointed that I was trying to wreck him afterward, but that’s part of racing," Suarez further added.
The No. 34 NASCAR Cup driver Michael McDowell, however, had contrasting views. He described the incident as a miscommunication between the Ford drivers and wasn't happy that Suarez deliberately tried to wreck him post the incident.
“Just miscommunication on the race track. We all kind of waiting until the end and you just had a lot of traffic. So just unfortunate. He was upset that I held him up on his good lap and then he tried to crush us. So I just didn’t appreciate it, ” said the NASCAR driver, McDowell.
Worth noting that both drivers started from the 14th row for the race on Sunday. Suarez finished the race in P23 and McDowell in P36.
Also Read: NASCAR Cup lineup for Phoenix
What has changed for the two NASCAR drivers in 2021
The biggest change is that Michael McDowell is now a Daytona 500 champion. It took him his 358th start in the NASCAR Cup Series to achieve this feat.
He has been able to carry his form in the races that have followed. He had three straight Top-10s before the streak was snapped at Las Vegas' Pennzoil 400 last week, where he finished 17th.
Daniel Suarez is now part of one of the three new teams in the 2021 NASCAR season, the Trackhouse Racing Team.
Co-owned by former driver Justin Marks, and Grammy Award-winning rapper, Pitbull, Suarez will pilot the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro.
He finished P36 (after a late crash) at Daytona 500, P16 at Daytona Road Course, P15 at Homestead, and P26 at Las Vegas.
Reflecting on the incident, Suarez sees the funny side of the altercation with McDowell.
McDowell will start 16th and Suarez at 27th for the Instacart 500 on March 14. It will be the first NASCAR event at Phoenix International Raceway this season before it returns to the oval track for the championship race in November.