AVONDALE, Ariz. – Temperatures were uncharacteristically in the mid-60s in the desert Friday afternoon.
That doesn’t mean things didn’t heat up at ISM Raceway.
Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell got physical during Busch Pole Qualifying, shoving each other on pit road with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver forcefully taking down his fellow Ford stablemate after McDowell initiated contact.
The disagreement spurned from an on-track dispute where Suarez was unable to get past the No. 34 of McDowell in the first round of qualifying. The SHR driver said he felt McDowell deliberately didn’t allow him to run a full, unimpeded lap – resulting in his worst starting spot (28th) of the season. McDowell will start right near him, in 27th.
Following the first round of qualifying, Suarez immediately walked over to confront McDowell, who was just exiting his car on pit road. The two talked briefly before McDowell shoved Suarez and the scuffle was underway.
“He was in my way in the corner of (Turns) 1 and 2 and I assumed he would get out of my way in Turn 3 and 4 and he didn’t,” Suarez told reporters following the fracas. “He was in my way for the entire second lap and he messed up my opening of the third lap. So, he pretty much messed up my whole qualifying. …
“I’m the kind of driver that I’m going to give a lot of respect to you, always, if you give me respect back. If you don’t give me respect, I’m going to go kick your ass.”
McDowell, minutes after the fisticuffs, was back to his jovial self, grinning and saying there isn’t much to it all.
“It was kind of chaotic out there. I’d be upset, too. I messed up his lap but then he tried to crash us,” said the Front Row Motorsports driver. “I made a mistake, an honest mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s just part of it. … It’s not how we wanted it to go. It hurt us as well.
“When you mess with somebody’s lap I understand they’re frustrated. But when you try to hurt somebody and damage hundreds of thousands of dollars of race cars, that takes it to a whole other level.”
Despite the fiery incident, there’s a bit of comedy to cap it off.
“We were at a hockey game last night,” McDowell said. “Don’t read too much into it. It’s emotions, man. Just the way it is.
“What happened on the race track wasn’t acceptable in my eyes. So, that’s it.”