Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher will start Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race on the front row, after the pair triumphed in their respective 60-lap heat races on Saturday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
By virtue of his pit crew posting the best pit stop of any All-Star Race team in Friday’s NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear, Suarez started Heat 1 from the pole – but his lead was short-lived.
Chase Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports-owned Chevrolet quickly passed Suarez’s Trackhouse Racing-owned Chevrolet and paced the field for the first 26 laps – on wet tires in a constantly changing track. Suarez gradually chased down Elliott and passed him before a caution period enabled the 11 teams in Heat 1 to change to a fresh set of wet tires. From there, Suarez pulled away and beat defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano to the line by 1.529 seconds. Chase Briscoe was third with Christopher Bell fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Racing Ford wired the field in Heat 2 – which set the outside rows for Sunday’s race. Buescher started from the pole and led all 60 laps en route to clinching the outside pole.
Austin Dillon finished 1.67 seconds behind Buescher, who pulled away even after the field – which began the race on dry tires – pitted for wet tires after a Lap 25 caution. Tires didn’t faze Buescher, who was the class of the field for the entire heat. William Byron followed Buescher and Dillon across the line. Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top five.
DANIEL SUAREZ, NO. 99 TRACKHOUSE RACING CHEVROLET (HEAT 1 WINNER): “It was fun to go through those transitions of a wet track and then a halfway dry track. It wasn’t 100-percent dry, it was halfway there. We started the race and nobody knew what to expect. The 9 (Elliott) did a better job than me at the start. The first 10 laps, I didn’t have anything for him, but around Lap 15 I knew it was coming, and by Lap 20 I knew I was better. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s going to be nice and sunny, so everything we learned today isn’t going to matter tomorrow. But I’m really proud of my team.”
CHRIS BUESCHER, NO. 17 RFK RACING FORD (HEAT 2 WINNER): “Our guys did a great job. It’s a heck of a start. I felt good about this thing in practice and I feel even better about it now. I want to race here every weekend. This is awesome. It’s fantastic. … We’re definitely in a good place for tomorrow. I feel like our Fastenal Mustang is really good.”’
Fans can catch Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Open at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, followed by the All-Star Race at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. Fans can also listen live on MRN Radio and SiriusXM.
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