INDIANAPOLIS — After a chaotic 400 miles that included hitting a wall, hitting another car and fighting for the final playoff spot, Daniel Suarez keyed his radio after crossing the finish line for the final time and, in a resigned voice, he told his team: “I gave everything I had.”
Sunday, it wasn’t enough at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His 11th-place finish left him four points behind Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot.
“I can tell you it wasn’t for lack of effort,” Suarez said of missing the playoffs. “We didn’t have things play our way. The last pit stop cycle, the caution came out after we pitted. That was unfortunate. I was not in the position I wanted to be. After that, we had only 28, 26 laps to go. I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn’t giving up. I was driving extremely hard, three-wide. I was doing everything I could to get there.”
That frantic charge completed a wild day for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver who entered the race holding the final playoff spot via a tiebreaker on Ryan Newman. With Suarez missing the playoffs, the final two spots were filled by Clint Bowyer and Newman.
Problems occurred early for Suarez. He hit the wall on Lap 11 of the 160-lap event and radioed his team afterward that he didn’t understand what happened to his car.
“I just got aero tight, loose,” he said. “I was not pushing the car too hard. I just got squared to (William Byron) and got too tight and loose and then I got to his right side and once you are on the right side of the car in his wake, it’s pretty much like being on ice. I couldn’t do anything.”
Suarez later had contact with Matt Tifft that caused Tifft to crash with 13 laps to go.
“I was loose into the corner and then tight on the exit of the corner,” Suarez said. “I was in a rush to try to get up front. He was racing on defense 100%. He finally gave me the line, very, very late and I got loose on entry and I got him.
“I feel bad for him, but at the same time he shouldn’t be racing like that when it’s for 15th or 18th or whatever that was. I think he’s smarter than that. I don’t know why he was doing that.
“I was way faster than him. I had fresher tires and a faster race car and he was blocking me for four laps.”
Tifft said of the incident: “I’ve got to go back and see the replay. If he did get loose like he said, that makes sense why he would get into us in the spot that he did. I tried to leave a little bit of a lane so he could actually go on. I was planning on trying to let him go at that point because I knew he was a little bit quicker and we had been racing hard and that was the first time he got close enough.
“For the comment of racing that hard, for the little teams that’s our livelihood. When we have good days like that, we have to capitalize.”
For Suarez, he couldn’t capitalize on his chance to make the playoffs.
“We’re still racing,” he said. “I feel like as a team we have to keep getting better. We’re not in the playoffs, but we have plenty of things to show. We can win a race. That would be like making the playoffs or even better.”