Daniel Suarez earns first NASCAR Cup Series victory at Sonoma

In his sixth full-time season as a competitor in NASCAR’s premier series, Daniel Suarez achieved his first career victory in the NASCAR Cup Series following a dominant run in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 12.

The 30-year-old Suarez from Monterrey, Mexico, led twice for a race-high 47 of 110 laps and fended off Chris Buescher during a 23-lap run to the finish to capture his first victory in his 195th start in the Cup circuit. The victory made Suarez the first Mexican-born competitor to win in the Cup Series as Suarez added his name to the 2022 Cup Series Playoff picture with a guaranteed spot based on his victory in Sonoma, California.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Kyle Larson notched his fifth consecutive pole position at Sonoma after posting a pole-winning lap at 92.111 mph in 77.776 seconds. Joining him on the front row will be teammate Chase Elliott, who clocked in a qualifying lap at 92.083 mph in 77.799 seconds. 

Prior to the event, AJ Allmendiner, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective cars.

At the start of the event, Cody Ware was assessed a pass-through penalty through pit road at the start of the event due to his No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang failing pre-qualifying technical inspection four times. The issue prevent Ware from qualifying on Saturday as his car chief Steve Gray was suspended for the remainder of the weekend.

When the green flag waved and the race started, teammates Larson and Elliott dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Larson managed to pull ahead approaching Turn 3 as the field behind jostled for positions. As the field made their way through the 11-turn circuit, Larson went on to lead the first lap ahead of Elliott while Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher and Cole Custer were scored in the top five. By then, Ware served his drive-through penalty through pit road.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Larson remained as the leader by more than a second over teammate Elliott followed by McDowell, Buescher and Daniel Suarez while Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, Denny Hamlin, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch were in the top 10. Joey Logano was in 11th followed by Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Joey Hand and Alex Bowman while Kevin Harvick, rookie Todd Gilliland, Aric Almirola, rookie Harrison Burton, rookie Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr. and AJ Allmendinger occupied the top 30. The first competitor scored outside of the top 30 was Erik Jones followed by teammate Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Four laps later, the first caution of the event flew due to possible fluid on the circuit when smoke billowed out of the No. 23 DoorDash Toyota TRD Camry piloted by Bubba Wallace, who parked his car in Turn 4 and retired due to an engine failure.

Under caution, some led by Tyler Reddick pitted while the rest led by Larson remained on the track. During the pit stops, Allmendinger’s pit crew went under the hood to work on the power steering pump.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 12, Larson managed to quickly clear teammate Elliott to retain the lead through the first two turns and approaching the uphill climb to Turns 3 and 3A. As the field fanned out and scrambled for positions through the Chute corner from Turns 4 to 7, Reddick muscled his way into the top five ahead of Suarez while keeping McDowell within his sights.

On Lap 15, Erik Jones, who was in 20th, got loose and spun his No. 43 FocusFactor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 2, but the race remained under green flag conditions as Larson stabilized his advantage to more than a second over teammate Elliott. Behind, Buescher was in third followed by McDowell and Reddick while Suarez, Chastain, Custer, Logano and Hamlin were scored in the top 10.

By the Lap 20 mark, Larson continued to lead by two seconds over teammate Elliott, who had Buescher starting to reel him in for the spot as McDowell and Reddick remained in the top five. Meanwhile, Chastain overtook teammate Suarez for sixth place while Logano, Custer and Hamlin were in the top 10.

Nearly two laps later, the first round of pit stops under green commenced as Suarez led a bevy of competitors to pit road, a group that included Blaney, Custer, Hamlin, Keselowski, Briscoe, Harvick, Bowman, Austin Dillon, Cindric, Ty Dillon, Gilliland, Truex, Joey Hand and Allmendinger. Not long after, Buescher, who was in the runner-up spot, led another wave of competitors to pit road that included Elliott, McDowell, Reddick and Chastain. During both processes, Larson remained on the track as the leader.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 25, Larson captured his second stage victory of the 2022 Cup Series season. Logano settled in second followed by Kyle Busch, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton, Josh Bilicki, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse and Cody Ware. By then, Christopher Bell, who was a lap down and would have received the free pass to return on the lead lap during the stage break, was penalized for pitting outside of his pit box.

Under the stage break, some led by Larson pitted while the rest led by Elliot remained on the track.

The second stage started on Lap 29 as Elliott and Buescher occupied the front row. At the start, Elliott took off with the lead entering the first turn while Chastain challenged Buescher for the runner-up spot, with the former managing to hold the spot entering Turns 3 and 3A. As the field made their way through the series of left and right-hand turns from Turn 7 to 10 before the sharp right-hand turn in Turn 11, Elliott retained the lead by two-tenths of a second over Buescher with Chastain trailing by less than a second. 

By Lap 35, Elliott stabilized his advantage to two-tenths of a second over Buescher, who continued to stalk Elliott through every turn and every corner. Chastain remained in third place while one-and-a-half seconds behind while Suarez, Reddick, Harvick, McDowell, Custer, Bowman and Blaney were in the top 10 ahead of Austin Dillon, Cindric, Hamlin, Keselowski and Truex.

Through the first 40 laps, Elliott continued to lead by more than seven-tenths of a second over Buescher followed by Chastain, Suarez and Reddick while Harvick, McDowell, Bowman, Blaney and Custer were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Larson, who was rubbing fenders with Joey Hand, was mired in 15th behind Custer, Cindric, Keselowski and Hamlin. Notably, Truex was in 16th, Byron was in 19th, Logano was back in 23rd in front of Justin Haley and Kyle Busch, Almirola was in 26th and Kurt Busch was in 30th behind Harrison Burton and Erik Jones.

Five laps later, Elliott remained as the leader by more than a second over Buescher while Suarez was up in third place ahead of teammate Chastain and Reddick, who had Harvick and McDowell stalking him for the spot.

Another two laps later, Erik Jones spun for a second time of the day, this time entering Turn 7, after he locked up his front tires while trying to overtake Kurt Busch in the top 30. Then during the following lap, Chastain met the same fate as he got loose and spun on his own while trying to overtake teammate Suarez in Turn 7. While the event remained under green, Chastain managed to fall back to seventh in front of Blaney and Elliott remained as the leader.

With 50 laps complete, Elliott stabilized his advantage to nearly two seconds over Buescher followed by Suarez and Reddick while Harvick moved into fifth place. Not long after, Truex pitted under green. During the following lap, Reddick led a bevy of competitors that included Bowman, Cindric, Blaney, Keselowski, Chastain, Austin Dillon and Custer to pit road for service under green. Another lap later, names led by Elliott and including teammate Larson, Briscoe, Cindric, McDowell, Harvick, Suarez and Buescher pitted. During the pit stops, Elliott, who was about to leave his pit stall following his service, came to a stop and reversed his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 back to his pit stall to have a loose wheel tightened. During the process, however, Elliott’s front nose was still sticking out of his pit box, which drew himself a penalty.

During the cycle of green flag pit stops, Logano emerged out in front followed by Buescher, Suarez, Almirola and Harvick. Along with Elliott, Reddick was penalized for speeding on pit road while Buescher was penalized for having an equipment thrown over his pit box.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 55, which marked the halfway point of the event, Logano claimed his second stage victory of the season. Almirola settled in second followed by Buescher, Suarez, Harvick, Todd Gilliland, Burton, Elliott, McDowell and Stenhouse. With Elliott penalized following his pit road miscue, however, Suarez, who was in 11th following the second stage’s conclusion, was awarded the final stage point.

Under the stage break, some led by Logano pitted while the rest led by Buescher remained on the track. By then, NASCAR rescinded the penalty to Buescher with Buescher, who was also allowed to retain his stage points following the second stage’s conclusion, out in front followed by Suarez.

With 50 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green. At the start, Buescher and Suarez dueled for the lead through the first four turns until Suarez managed to pull ahead with the lead followed by McDowell while Buescher locked up the front tires entering Turn 7. Through the series of turns from Turns 7 to 10 and through Turn 11, Suarez retained the lead followed by McDowell, Harvick, Buescher and Keselowski while Blaney, Cindric, Chastain, Austin Dillon and Larson were in the top 10.

During the following lap, Suarez’s No. 99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was ahead of McDowell’s No. 34 Love’s Travel Stop Ford Mustang by half a second and the top-seven competitors broke away from the field that was fanned out to multiple lanes while Chastain and Larson duked for eighth place.

Nearing the final 45 laps of the event, Reddick pitted after spinning in Turn 10. In the midst of his spin, Josh Bilicki also spun while the race remained under green. Shortly after, Harvick moved his No. 4 Gearwrench Ford Mustang into the runner-up spot through the first two turns while Buescher challenged McDowell for third place.

With 40 laps remaining, Suarez continued to lead while Buescher made a bold move beneath Harvick in Turn 11 to take over the runner-up spot in his No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang. McDowell and Keselowski remained in the top five followed by Blaney, Chastain, Cindric, Larson and Bowman while Briscoe, Austin Dillon, Custer, Byron, Truex, Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Joey Hand and Logano were in the top 20. Meanwhile, Elliott was mired back in 23rd place. By then, Reddick, who pitted multiple times following his spin, took his car to the garage. In addition, Corey LaJoie pitted under green.

Five laps later, Suarez stabilized his advantage to nearly a second over Buescher followed by Harvick, McDowell and Keselowski. By then, Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Harrison Burton pitted under green as the sun was starting to emerge from the cloudy conditions. Not long after, Truex pitted along with teammate Bell, Justin Haley, Briscoe and Elliott, who endured a slow pit stop.

Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Suarez remained as the leader by more than two seconds over Buescher followed by Harvick while McDowell and Keselowski were in the top five. By then, Blaney pitted under green along with teammate Cindric.

During the following lap, Buescher pitted along with Harivck, Bowman, Custer, Byron and Chastain, who backed his car back to his pit stall following his pit stop to have the lug nut on his left-rear tire tightened. In addition, Suarez surrendered the lead to pit followed by McDowell, Larson, Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Todd Gilliland and Scott Heckert while Keselowski moved into the lead.

Then with 28 laps remaining, the caution flew when the right-front tire from Larson’s No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came off in Turn 2 just as Larson had exited pit road. During the caution period, some led by Keselowski pitted while the rest led by Suarez and Buescher remained on the track.

With 23 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Suarez pulled away entering the first two turns while Buescher and McDowell battled for the runner-up spot ahead of Blaney and Cindric while Harvick was back in sixth. Then in Turn 7, Kyle Busch, who was in sixth, spun his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry after locking up his tires and slipping sideways while Bowman went wide to avoid hitting Busch, but the race remained under green as Suarez remained as the leader.

Three laps later, Suarez retained the lead by three-tenths of a second over Buescher, who was stalking the leader and trying to close in, while McDowell, Blaney, Cindric, Harvick, Briscoe, Elliott, Byron and Truex were in the top 10. Allmendinger was in 11th followed by Bell, Chastain, Hamlin, Ty Dillon, Keselowski, Burton, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola. By then, Larson was in 23rd, Logano was mired back in 25th ahead of Bowman and Kyle Busch was all the way back in 32nd.

With 15 laps remaining, Suarez stabilized his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Buescher while McDowell, Blaney and Harvick were scored in the top five.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Suarez continued to lead by seven-tenths of a second over Buescher followed by McDowell, Harvick and Blaney while Cindric, Elliott, Byron, Chastain and Allmendinger were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Truex was in 13th ahead of Kurt Busch, Larson was mired in 17th, Logano was back in 21st and Kyle Busch was in 31st. Soon after, teammates Bell and Hamlin pitted their respective Toyotas.

With five laps remaining, Suarez, who was trying to track Hamlin and put him a lap behind, was leading by more than two seconds over Buescher while third-place McDowell trailed by more than six seconds. Fourth-place Harvick trailed by eight seconds while fifth-place Cindric trailed by more than 12 seconds. By then, Truex pitted.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Suarez remained as the leader by nearly four seconds over Buescher. Earlier, Allmendinger, who was in position for a top-10 run despite his power steering issues, spun in Turn 3, but the race remained under green. With Buescher unable to narrow the deficit between himself and Suarez, Suarez was able to smoothly navigate his way through the 11-turn circuit and back to the finish line for his first checkered flag in the series.

With the victory, Suarez, a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and the 2016 Xfinity Series champion, became the fourth first-time winner of the 2022 Cup Series season, the first competitor to achieve a first Cup win at Sonoma since Juan Pablo Montoya made the last accomplishment in 2007 and the 202nd overall to win in NASCAR’s premier series. In addition to becoming the first Mexican-born competitor to win in the Cup Series, he also became the fifth foreign-born competitor overall to win in the Cup circuit, joining Italy’s Mario Andretti, Columbia’s Juan Pablo Montoya, Canada’s Earl Ross and Australia’s Marcos Ambrose. As a bonus, Suarez became the 40th different competitor to achieve a victory across NASCAR’s top three national touring series (Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Cup).

The victory was also the third overall for Trackhouse Racing in the team’s second season in NASCAR competition, but first as a two-car organization as both competitors have achieved victories and guaranteed spots to the 2022 Cup Playoffs. Along with Suarez, crew chief Travis Mack achieved his first victory as a Cup crew chief.

Photo by David Myers for SpeedwayMedia.com.

“It’s crazy,” Suarez, who received a chorus of cheers from the crowd and the Mexican fans, said on FS1. “I have so many thoughts in my head right now. It’s been a rough road. It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series. These guys believing in me, Trackhouse Racing, [owner] Justin Marks, [team president] Ty Norris, everyone that helped me to get to this point. A lot of people in Mexico: Jay Morales, Carlos Slim. My family, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. Just very happy that we’re able to make it work. It’s the energy. [the team] believe in me since day one. They believe in me and they put all the people, resources, everything to make it happen…This is the first [win] of many.”

“[The win] feels good,” Suarez added in the media room. “My team’s been working. They’ve been working very hard. To be able to finally get the first [win], I feel like that is gonna make us feel more relaxed. Now, we’re gonna do things more calm. I told my team, ‘Hey, just stay calm, let’s do our thing’. We’re capable of winning races. But one thing is to say it and another thing is to do it. Today, we did it, so now, we’re gonna be able to do things more relaxed that way victories and success is gonna be able to find us much easier.”

“This one’s difficult to put into words,” Justin Marks added on FS1. “Daniel Suarez, Travis Mack helped build Trackhouse [Racing]. They’ve been working so hard together. They’ve been so focused, so dedicated trying to get to Victory Lane. The No. 1 car winning two races with this year was tough on them, but they never gave up. They knew that they were gonna be in Victory Lane. I’m so proud and happy for them.”

“Coming up through the ranks at Hendrick [Motorsports] to being a car chief, just working hard for this first win,” Travis Mack, crew chief for Suarez, added in the media center. “This is actually [the place of] my first win with Jeff Gordon I believe in [2004]. Sonoma was my first win on a Cup team, so it’s really exciting to get my very first win as a crew chief at Sonoma.”

Buescher rallied from being absent last weekend at Gateway due to a positive COVID-19 test to finish in second place for his first top-five result since finishing third at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in October 2021 while McDowell earned his first top-five result of the season with a stellar third-place result.

“I’m just disappointed in myself,” Buescher said. “[I] Didn’t get the job done there. I apologize to these guys because they put an awesome Fifth Third Bank Mustang underneath me this weekend. It’s a heck of a return. We had a lot of speed. Just struggled for a little bit on the long-run speed. Just wearing rears [tires] out. Ultimately, just didn’t get it done when it counted, so it’s an awesome run. Had great speed. That’s an awesome recovery from [Circuit of the Americas] and what we had there. Everybody back at [Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing]’s doing a great job. Hurts to be that close, but congratulations to Suarez. We’re trying. Just trying to get him and just ran out of steam there.” 

“Yeah, I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row [Motorsports],” McDowell said. “Obviously, we want to win the race. Finishing third doesn’t get you in the Playoffs, but really thankful to everybody. [Team owner] Bob Jenkins, everybody at Front Row Motorsports. This Love’s Travel Stop Ford Mustang was fast all weekend. I keep telling my guys [that] we gotta run second, third, fourth, fifth week in and week out, and we’ll eventually get a win. [I] Felt like we were close today. Just needed a little bit more fire-off speed off the front end, but really proud of my team…We’re getting closer, so we’ll keep pushing hard. We wanna get this car in the Playoffs, so we’ll keep fighting.”

Harvick, who was trying to return to Victory Lane since winning at Bristol Motor Speedway in September 2020, came home in fourth place while rookie Austin Cindric completed the top five in fifth place. Blaney, Chastain, Elliott, Byron and Keselowski finished in the top 10.

Notably, Larson finished 15th, Logano settled in 17th in front of Kurt Busch, Allmendinger fell back to 19th following his late spin, Truex ended up 26th in front of teammate Bell and Kyle Busch concluded his long run in 30th in front of teammate Hamlin.

There were six lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 14 laps. A total of 31 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.

With 10 regular season races remaining to this season, Chase Elliott leads the regular season standings by 16 points over Ross Chastain, 23 over Kyle Busch, 25 over Ryan Blaney and 30 over Joey Logano.

Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, rookie Austin Cindric and Kurt Busch are currently guaranteed spots for the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning once throughout the regular-season stretch while Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola are above the top-16 cutline based on points. Kevin Harvick trails the top-16 cutline by seven points, Tyler Reddick trails by 42, Austin Dillon trails by 47, Erik Jones trails by 55, Michael McDowell trails by 93, Chris Buescher trails by 105, Justin Haley trails by 113, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. trails by 135, Bubba Wallace trails by 139 and Ty Dillon trails by 153.

Results.

1. Daniel Suarez, 47 laps led

2. Chris Buescher, four laps led

3. Michael McDowell

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Austin Cindric

6. Ryan Blaney

7. Ross Chastain

8. Chase Elliott, 26 laps led

9. William Byron

10. Brad Keselowski, three laps led

11. Austin Dillon

12. Justin Haley

13. Chase Briscoe

14. Aric Almirola

15. Kyle Larson, 26 laps led, Stage 1 winner

16. Alex Bowman

17. Joey Logano, four laps led, Stage 2 winner

18. Kurt Busch

19. AJ Allmendinger

20. Joey Hand

21. Cole Custer

22. Erik Jones

23. Ty Dillon

24. Todd Gilliland

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

26. Martin Truex Jr.

27. Christopher Bell

28. Harrison Burton

29. Josh Bilicki

30. Kyle Busch

31. Denny Hamlin

32. Cody Ware, one lap down

33. Scott Heckert, one lap down

34. Corey LaJoie, nine laps down

35. Tyler Reddick, 13 laps down

36. Bubba Wallace – OUT, Engine

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season will enter a one-week break period before returning to action at Nashville Superspeedway in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, June 26. The event is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET on NBC with FOX’s 2022 NASCAR coverage concluded.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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