Daniel Suárez got past Chris Buescher and took charge early in the final stage on this hilly road course in Northern California wine country, and he persevered through a pit stop and a caution to emerge in front with 23 laps to go. Buescher pushed him aggressively, but Suárez made no significant mistakes while rolling to victory.
Buescher’s second-place finish was also a season best in his RFK Racing Ford. He fell just short of his second career victory.
Suárez had tears in his eyes for so many reasons Sunday after he realized a lifelong dream by crossing the finish line first at Sonoma Raceway.
While Suárez was overjoyed to become the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, he quickly felt overwhelmed with gratitude and memories of his motorsports journey. He also thought about the multitude of fans backing him across the continent and beyond, including several hundred red-shirted supporters screaming their hearts out in the Sonoma grandstands as part of his Daniel’s Amigos outreach program.
Despite those poignant thoughts, this occasion was not solemn for the 30-year-old native of Monterrey who finally won in the 195th career start of a Cup Series career that began in 2017.
After his tears dried in the car, he quickly called for the pinata shaped like a taco that he’s been keeping on hand for his first win — and he celebrated by punching a hole through it with his fist.
Suárez drove his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to the third Cup Series victory of the season for this rising 2-year-old team co-owned by former driver Justin Marks and music star Pitbull.
Suárez is the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Cup Series race, and he’s the first to win on all three of NASCAR’s national series. He won the Xfinity Series championship in 2016, and he also won a Truck Series race that year.
Michael McDowell finished a season-best third in front of Kevin Harvick in cloudy conditions in Sonoma Raceway’s first Cup Series race at full capacity since before the coronavirus pandemic. Austin Cindric was fifth in the final race before the Cup Series’ one-week midseason break.
Sonoma Raceway restored the 1.99-mile Chute track layout for this race after using the longer Carousel configuration in the previous two editions in 2019 and 2021. The shorter track didn’t appear to lead to more contact in the racing, and not much happened in the first two stages, which were won by Larson and Joey Logano.
Defending champion and pole-sitter Kyle Larson led the first stage, but the defending series champ fell back from there and eventually lost his right front tire with 27 laps to go. Larson started on the pole for the fifth consecutive time at the race closest to his childhood home in the Sacramento suburbs, but his decision not to pit in the first stage left him buried in the field from there. He finished 15th.
After the break, the season resumes with a trip to Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26.