AVONDALE, Ariz. – The intensity of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying boiled over Friday afternoon at ISM Raceway for Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez.
Suarez and McDowell were involved in a scuffle on pit road following the first round of qualifying that saw both men fail to advance to the second round of qualifying. Suarez approached McDowell to have a conversation and was met with a shove from McDowell, which led to the scuffle.
The scuffle lasted only a few moments before both men were separated by members of McDowell’s crew.
McDowell, driving of the No. 34 Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports, explained that the scuffle was the result of an on-track altercation between the two in the final moments of the first round of qualifying.
“Just a miscommunication on the race track,” McDowell explained. “We all kind waited until the end (of the round) and then you just had a lot of traffic. Just unfortunate. He was upset that I held him up on his good lap and then he tried to crash us. I just didn’t appreciate it.”
Suarez, in his first year as driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, said McDowell showed “a lack of respect” on the race track prior to the scuffle.
“It’s just a lack of respect. Track position is very big races these days and you have to qualify well to have a good stall on pit road and to obviously have a good start in the race,” Suarez said. “The race is long so you can always overcome that, but it’s just a lack of respect. Everyone here in the garage knows that the second lap is the good one. You have to try to get out of the way if someone is coming on their hot lap. He didn’t.
“He killed me in one corner. I thought he was going to get out of the way in the second corner and he didn’t. I almost wrecked him and then he was disappointed because I was trying to wreck him afterwards. That’s part of racing.”
Once both men were separated and had a moment to calm down they had a brief conversation about what happened on the track. McDowell said he plans to have another conversation with Suarez prior to Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500.
“Heat of the moment stuff. It’s racing. Short practice sessions, shorter qualifying, getting late going through tech, the intensity ramps up. It’s all part of it,” McDowell said.
McDowell is scheduled to start 27th on Sunday, with Suarez slated to start alongside him in 28th.