SONOMA, Calif. — Daniel Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, fending off Chris Buescher for a historic victory at Sonoma Raceway.
Suarez, a 30-year-old from Monterrey, finally earned the 195th career start of a Cup Series career that began in 2017. He also drove his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to the third Cup Series victory of the season for the rise of 2 years. -former team co-owned by former racer Justin Marks and music star Pitbull.
Suarez passed Buescher and took control at the start of the final stage on this hilly road course in northern California wine country, and he persevered through a pit stop and warning to emerge in front with 23 laps to go. . Buescher pushed him aggressively, but Suarez made no significant mistakes as he rode to victory.
“It’s crazy,” Suarez said. “I have so many thoughts in my head right now. It’s been a tough journey in the Cup Series, and these guys believed in me. I’ve got a lot of people to thank in Mexico. My family, they don’t care about me. never gave up. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. I’m just glad we were able to make it work.
Suarez’s team partied wildly when it was over, even whipping out a festive taco-shaped pinata. The pinata was requested by Suarez for every time he picked up his first win and clinched a playoff berth – and he celebrated by punching it with his fist.
“They believed in me from day one,” Suarez said of his team. “[We’ve got] all the people, all the resources to make it happen.”
Suarez then briefly addressed his fans in Spanish, saying: “This is the first of many.”
Buescher’s second place was also the best of the season with his RFK Racing Ford. He fell just short of his second career victory.
“It hurts to be so close, but congratulations to Suarez,” Buescher said. “We were trying, trying to get it. I ran out of steam there.”
Suarez, who won the Xfinity Series championship in 2016, is the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Cup Series race. He joins Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, Australian Marcos Ambrose, Canadian Earl Ross and Italian-American Mario Andretti.
The success of Suarez and Trackhouse Racing could be a welcome boost for a sport keen to expand its cultural footprint. After moving to the United States 11 years ago with a desire to race on bigger stages, Suarez is a major achievement for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which aims to bring fresh perspectives and new horizons to a largely monocultural organization for much of its history.
Michael McDowell finished third of the season ahead of Kevin Harvick in cloudy conditions in Sonoma Raceway’s first Cup Series race at full capacity since before the coronavirus pandemic. The crowd included about 350 rowdy fans of Suarez’s program, Daniel’s Amigos, which allows kids from multiple NASCAR cities to watch races.
Austin Cindric finished fifth in the final race before the one-week Cup Series mid-season break.
Sonoma Raceway restored the 1.99-mile Chute track layout for this race after using the longer Carousel configuration in the previous two races in 2019 and 2021. The shorter track did not appear to lead to more contact in the race, and not much happened in the first two stages, won by Larson and Joey Logano.
Defending champion and pole sitter Kyle Larson led the first stage, but the defending series champion fell back from there and eventually lost his right front tire with 27 laps to go. Larson started on pole for the fifth straight time in the race closest to his childhood home in suburban Sacramento, but his decision not to stop on the first stage left him buried in the field from there. He finished 15th.
After the break, the season resumes with a trip to the Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26.