Playoff hopes dashed for Buescher, LaJoie, Suarez and others at Daytona
Fourteen drivers will have to wait until 2022 for another chance to win at Daytona and get into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, as each driver’s hopes were dashed by Ryan Blaney’s win in Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Blaney won in overtime after several restarts featuring charges from Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez and other playoff bubble drivers who challenged Blaney for the win.
Buescher emerged to take the lead for the second time in the race on Lap 157. He led the Lap 163 overtime restart but fell back to third at the white flag.
Buescher missed the final lap wreck on the backstretch and crossed the start-finish line in second.
However, Buescher was disqualified in post-race tech after an illegal track bar mounting assembly was discovered.
“It hurts,” Buescher said. “I’m glad to see that a Ford ended up in victory lane but it hurts that it wasn’t us.”
Buescher finished 40th, last, after the disqualification.
LaJoie ran up front at various points and mounted some surprising charges in Saturday’s race.
LaJoie led one lap, on Lap 57, and finished seventh in Stage One.
Although he fell back, LaJoie re-emerged at the front after avoiding a Lap 158 multi-car wreck in turn four.
During overtime, he restarted in third and helped Ryan Blaney take the lead. LaJoie looked to make a move on Blaney but he received no help from Kevin Harvick, who passed LaJoie with a run that shuffled him back.
LaJoie finished 16th, one lap down, after being involved in the final lap wreck.
Austin Dillon restarted fourth for the overtime after his crew changed a faulty battery. Dillon needed to either win or finish 18 spots ahead of playoff bubble competitor Tyler Reddick.
Dillon was close behind Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch, who mounted a charge on the backstretch.
However, Dillon was an innocent bystander when the charge went wrong and spurred the big final lap wreck.
Dillon finished 17th, one lap down, after being involved in the wreck. Reddick finished fifth, causing Dillon to miss the playoffs by 30 points.
Chastain was one of the favorites for the win, among the playoff bubble drivers, in Saturday’s race. He led five times for 14 laps and finished fourth in Stage One.
Chastain was running near the Top 5 on the final lap with a narrow chance to work with Harvick, Suarez and Busch to contend for the win. However, he was also involved in the final lap wreck.
Chastain finished 18th, one lap down.
On Lap 147, Suarez received front end damage in an eight-car wreck on the backstretch that was set off by Martin Truex Jr. getting turned into the wall and into William Byron.
On the final lap, Suarez launched a comeback as he pushed Harvick to challenge Blaney on the backstretch. As Harvick looked for the lead, Suarez pulled to his inside with help from Kurt Busch. Busch’s bump poorly connected to Suarez’s car which sent Suarez into Harvick and triggered the final lap wreck.
Suarez finished 19th, one lap down, after being involved in the wreck.
Matt DiBenedetto finished 25th, one lap down. He and Chase Elliott wrecked while racing for the lead in turn four on Lap 158.
Bubba Wallace (second), Ryan Newman (third), Ryan Preece (fourth) and Erik Jones (11th) finished on the lead lap but failed to make the playoffs.
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