Daniel Suárez survived an entertaining race of attrition, winning the Ambetter Health 400 with a three-wide photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. It was the closest race in AMS history and the closest at any 1.5-mile racetrack.

Suárez, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch crossed the finish line at essentially the same time, with Suárez winning by just a hair. The margin of victory was 0.003 seconds, making it the third-closest NASCAR race since electronic scoring began in 1993. The margin between first and third (Busch) was 0.007 seconds. It will almost certainly be remembered as race of the year.

Suárez wasn’t sure he’d won at the finish. He said he knew was slightly ahead of Busch but had “no idea” about Blaney.

“That was crazy,” Suárez said. “I just saw a picture. It was pretty damn close. ... That was an amazing race and an amazing finish.”

It’s Suárez’s second career Cup Series victory. He became the first Mexican-born driver to win a Cup Series race at AMS. It was his 10th Cup Series race in Atlanta. He’s now finished in the top six in four of his past five races here. He was runner-up in the Quaker State 400 last July (“second sucks,” he said post-race about his last experience here).

But he also considers this win even sweeter because it was in Atlanta. Suárez has always enjoyed the area. The Monterrey, Mexico native is also a big soccer fan and visited Atlanta United’s practice facility back in 2019, receiving a VIP tour.

“It means a lot,” he said. “Atlanta has always been special to me. I’ve been racing here in the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, now the Cup Series. To be able to win it here, where I know - I saw a lot of Mexican flags in the grandstands, a lot of Latinos out there. It’s quite special.”

Overall, Sunday’s event featured 14 leaders, a record 48 lead changes, and 10 cautions (for 65 laps).

It didn’t take long for chaos. There was a 16-car pileup on lap 2 (that included Suárez). Todd Gilliland tried to let teammate Michael McDowell in the top line which led to the biggest pileup in AMS history (Josh Williams was the only driver unable to continue). The messiness continued throughout the afternoon to the point FOX showed a graphic displaying the 11 cars that had actually avoided wrecks.

The early incident was a boost for Joey Logano, who was a co-favorite prior to the race but started at the rear and served a pass-through penalty for a glove violation. He found himself at 20th following the madness. He took the lead on lap 99.

Logano’s effort was spoiled near the end of stage 2. He, Chris Buescher and Denny Hamlin were involved in a wreck on lap 160, costing the three drivers who excel on superspeedways. Austin Cindric won stage 2 under caution. Logano ultimately finished 28th.

Dawsonville native Chase Elliott started at the rear due to unapproved adjustments. He was also part of the early major pileup. Elliott re-entered the top 10 in stage 2 but contact with Ross Chastain disrupted him later. Elliott was in eighth before getting bumped by Chastain on lap 200. He wrecked again on lap 249 and finished 15th. His lone win in Atlanta remains the Quaker State 400 in July 2022.

McDowell and William Byron, who won this event in 2022 and the Daytona 500 last week, collided while attempting to enter pit road on lap 135. Byron, the points leader entering today, finished 17th. He has won twice in Atlanta over the past two years and was attempting to become the only active driver with three victories here.

Brad Keselowski, who likewise could’ve become a three-time winner in Atlanta, collided with Kyle Larson and Corey LaJoie on lap 220. Larson has been involved in a wreck during all five races at the reconfigured track.

Chase Briscoe and Hamlin, running fourth and fifth respectively, wrecked on lap 241. Hamlin hasn’t won in Atlanta since 2012, while Briscoe hasn’t won here.

“I feel like honestly here at Atlanta, the good cars still separate themselves,” Gilliland said. “Honestly, a little bit more than, say, at Daytona, Talladega. Here, you have to have a good driving car, regardless of what all’s going on. If your car isn’t driving good, you’re not going to be able to make the moves that you want to get to the front of the pack.”

The 48 lead changes topped the previous AMS record of 46 set in March 2022. Busch sits atop the Cup standings (77 points) after Sunday’s race, followed by Byron (76) and Cindric (76).

NASCAR returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the playoffs. The Quaker State 400 will be 3 p.m. Sept. 8. Sunday’s thriller should only increase the excitement for Atlanta’s next event.