AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Drivers Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell were summoned to the NASCAR hauler after they were involved in a post-qualifying fight before practice Saturday for the Cup Series race at ISM Raceway.
Suarez was upset that McDowell impeded his fastest qualifying lap, stalking him after both were eliminated in the first qualifying session Friday. Suarez then hopped a concrete barrier and scuffled with McDowell, spinning and throwing him to the ground.
It took several crew members to separate them.
Suarez and McDowell downplayed the morning meeting, saying NASCAR officials just wanted to ensure the animosity would not spill over to the track practice or during the race.
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“Which, honestly, it’s my style,” Suarez said. “If I wanted to wreck him I would have done that yesterday. That’s not my style. I wouldn’t use my race car as a weapon.”
The trouble began when drivers waited until the final minutes of the 10-minute qualifying session to take the track. That led to chaos at the end of pit road and plenty of traffic on the race surface, and it was McDowell’s slower car that Suarez claimed impeded his best lap.
McDowell acknowledged getting in the way, but he also took umbrage with Suarez retaliating on the track by getting in his way. McDowell’s qualifying effort was similarly scuttled, both drivers missed the cutoff for the second round of qualifying and they will start deep in the field.
The poor qualifying result also means they will have poor pit stall selections.
“Like I said yesterday, it’s an emotional sport. We both have a lot on the line,” McDowell said. “We’re trying to do the best we can for our partners and teams, and emotions come out. That’s what racing is all about. What it’s always been about.”
Suarez and McDowell will have another opportunity to discuss their issues: McDowell will start 27th and Suarez 28th, and that means they will share a convertible for the driver introductions.
“It’s not fixed. I’m not ready to fix something like that,” Suarez said. “I just made my point clear, why I was mad. He had his point. I don’t think it’s as good as mine. But I mean, we’re not going to fight each other. But we’re not best buddies, either.”
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