Daniel Suarez wins thrilling three-wide-finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway

HAMPTON, Ga. – Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway ended in a three-wide photo finish, with Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez eking out a victory over Ryan Blaney by what looked to be an inch or two at the finish line.

Daniel Suarez celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

NASCAR timing and scoring showed Suárez ahead of Blaney by 0.003 seconds at the stripe, with Kyle Busch in third, 0.007 seconds behind the race winner.

Daniel Suárez, far left, edges Kyle Busch, center, and Ryan Blaney at the finish line to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.
 (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Busch, who won Saturday’s Trucks race, moved to the middle between Blaney, the 2023 Cup champion, and Suarez to set up the dramatic finish. Suarez, 32, earned his second career Cup win in his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet.

There were 10 cautions and an Atlanta-record 47 lead changes.

A massive pileup of at least 16 cars on the second lap was the biggest in the history of Atlanta Motor Speedway and set the pace for a procession of wrecks. The initial crash left many cars heavily taped for the remainder of the afternoon.

The intensity increased when Austin Cindric went to the bottom of the track in his Team Penske Ford for a four-wide pass to take the lead with 50 laps remaining.

Tight racing led to the eighth caution of the day when Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski were in a crash. Another crash with 21 laps remaining ended Chase Briscoe’s race and damaged the hopes of Denny Hamlin, who had been a top contender.

Twenty-two of the 37 drivers in the race finished on the lead lap.

Kyle Busch leaves Atlanta as the championship leader with a one-point advantage over second-place William Byron.

Stage 1 Winner:  Michael McDowell of Front Row Motorsports (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner:  Austin Cindric of Team Penske (Ford)

Stewart-Haas Racing Finish:      

  • Ryan Preece (Started 20th, Finished 16th / Running, completed 260 of 260 laps)
  • Josh Berry (Started 14th, Finished 29th / Accident, completed 250 of 260 laps)
  • Chase Briscoe (Started 9th, Finished 31st / Accident, completed 239 of 260 laps)  
  • Noah Gragson (Started 15th, Finished 36th / Accident, completed 66 of 260 laps)

Stewart-Haas Racing Points:

  • Chase Briscoe (22nd with 37 points, 40 out of first)
  • Ryan Preece (24th with 35 points, 42 out of first)
  • Noah Gragson (27th with 29 points, 48 out of first)
  • Josh Berry (31st with 20 points, 57 out of first)

 This was Preece’s best finish so far this year. His previous best was 23rd, earned in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Ryan Preece

Preece’s 16th-place finish bettered his previous best finish at Atlanta – 24th, earned last July.

“Our day was ruined right from the start, so to end up 16th is a gift,” said Ryan Preece, the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang driver. “For the half a lap that I felt like my car made it through, it felt like it was going to be fast, giving me much hope moving toward Vegas next week.

Briscoe finished ninth in Stage 2 to earn two bonus points.

Chase Briscoe

“I got put in a bad spot down the back straightaway,” said Chase Briscoe, the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang driver. “Somebody was on my right rear, shuffling me to the left. I think we were three- or four-wide, and it felt like somebody hit me in the left rear getting into (turn) three, but I could’ve just gotten loose from the air, I’m not sure. It sucks with how good our car was. We were able to be up front all day and be super aggressive making moves. I thought we would be in a perfect spot there, but that’s part of it when you’re racing that tight, and everybody is going for it at the end. We were just on the unfortunate side of it today. (The racing) was fun. That was the most fun I’ve ever had here, and I think some of that is just because our guys did an excellent job of bringing a car that we could be aggressive with and make moves. I’m looking forward to coming back here. That was a lot of fun. Guys were making huge moves and big runs, but we could not get close to crashing a lot of times like we would at Daytona or Talladega. I had a lot of fun. I wish our finish reflected how good we were today, but we’ll go on to Las Vegas and see if we can improve on it. I don’t know if it’s just the speed feels a little bit slower here, but I think our car was perfect for us. I saw a lot of other guys struggling. I felt like we had easily a top-five car out there. I’m sure my opinion is probably a little bit different than others just because of how easy our car drove, and that’s the part that stings the most, I would say, knowing how good our car was, and we don’t get the finish to show that.”

Josh Berry

The guys did an excellent job to get us back in position,” said Josh Berry, the No. 4 Harrison’s Ford Mustang driver. “We made some mistakes there and must clean that up, but the car was weird. It was solid on the bottom but struggled on the top. There were several times I got put in a bad spot in the third lane and had a moment there, and ultimately that’s what did us in at the end. I was trying to stay out of the top lane. I got forced up there, and I just got loose and, unfortunately, wrecked. I’m glad we battled back, raced well, and got back in position, but unfortunately, we didn’t finish.

Noah Gragson

It’s definitely a bummer,” said Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 10 Black Rifle Coffee/Ranger Boats Ford Mustang. “They started stacking up on the top, and I thought we were going to miss the 3 (Austin Dillon) and then got tagged in the right rear by someone. I just got hit from behind, and the car was pretty torn up. We tried to keep it going, but then the rack started falling out of it, so we started losing steering and had to bring it in. It’s just a bummer, but we will go to Vegas and rebound. There’s a lot of fight in these guys with the Ranger Boats team. This 10 group is tight together, and I’m grateful to be a part of it. It still sucks not being able to collect points. We were looking to have a good day and only get one lap in at speed, and then we’re limping around with a wrecked racecar for the next 60 laps, so that was a bummer. Overall, I’m just really grateful. This hurts us in the points. I know it’s still early, but the way the qualifying and practice algorithm goes, being higher up in the points is really beneficial, so it’s a bummer. But we will keep our heads down and keep working hard.

Next Up:

The next NASCAR Cup Series scheduled event is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, March 3, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race begins at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.