Celebra Amigos! Daniel Suárez Wins His First Cup Race on the Road Course at Sonoma

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 12: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, leads Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The Amigos were going crazy at Sonoma Raceway Sunday. Daniel Suárez took control of the NASCAR Cup series race at Sonoma late in the going and scored his first win in his 195th start in the Cup series.

“It’s a crazy day,” Suárez said. “I have so many thoughts in my head right now. I mean, it’s been a rough road. It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series.”

Suárez took the lead for the final time after a round pit stops on lap 84 and a restart with 23 laps to go. Chris Buescher was second and hounded Suárez until 10 to go when Buescher began to fade, and Suárez stretched out his lead. The legion of Suárez fans dressed in red in the stands known as his Amigos cheered wildly as Suárez crossed the line to win by 3.8 seconds.

“Hurts to be that close,” Buescher, who missed the race at St. Louis after a positive Covid test said. “But congratulations to Suárez. We were trying, trying to get him. Ran out of steam there.”

The key to the win was a flawless pit stop by his Trackhouse crew that came during the final round of green flag pit stops that saw several contenders suffer issues including Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, and Suárez’s teammate Ross Chastain.

The races fourth and final caution came out on lap 84 after polesitter and last year’s Somona winner Kyle Larson lost a tire just after exiting pit road. That put the field under caution with Suárez sixth. The top five pitted and Suárez stayed out with the lead and never gave it up.

Behind Buescher, Michael McDowell was third followed by Harvick in fourth and Austin Cindric fifth.

Early in the race it was all Larson. He led the first 26 laps and won Stage 1. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott took over the top spot and held that until lap 52 when he pitted suffering a slow pit stop when the crew didn’t tighten his left rear wheel forcing him to stop and back into his pit box; the front his Chevy was over the line however, and Elliott was hit with a penalty. Buescher was penalized during the same round of stops for a crewmember throwing equipment. On review however, that penalty was rescinded. Joey Logano would take over the top spot and win Stage 2.

From lap 56 on it was a duel up front between Buescher and Suárez and ended with Suárez becoming the fifth foreign driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, and the first Mexican born driver to win in the top tier series.

“These guys believe in me – Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris,” Suárez said. “Everyone that helped me to get to this point. Alot of people in Mexico: Jay Morales, Carlos Slim. My family, they never give up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t (tearing up).

“Just very happy we were able to make it work.”

He ended his start-finish line celebration with a message in Spanish for his Amigos then repeated it in English:

“This is the first one of many.”

Ryan Blaney was sixth, Chastain seventh, Elliott rallied to finish eighth, with William Byron and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top 10.

Polesitter Larson finished 15th on a day when Hendrick Motorsports became the first team to lead 100,000 miles in the Cup series.

Ironically for a race called the Toyota /Save Mart 350, the highest finishing Toyota was Kurt Busch in 18th.

The NASCAR Cup series takes its lone off weekend before returning to action at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26.

Photos: NASCAR at Sonoma Raceway Sunday June 11, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Toyota/Save Mart 350
Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, California
Sunday, June 12, 2022

1. (8) Daniel Suárez, Chevrolet, 110.

2. (3) Chris Buescher, Ford, 110.

3. (4) Michael McDowell, Ford, 110.

4. (23) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 110.

5. (25) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 110.

6. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 110.

7. (7) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 110.

8. (2) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 110.

9. (20) William Byron, Chevrolet, 110.

10. (22) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110.

11. (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.

12. (18) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 110.

13. (15) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 110.

14. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110.

15. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 110.

16. (19) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 110.

17. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 110.

18. (11) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 110.

19. (16) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 110.

20. (17) Joey Hand, Ford, 110.

21. (6) Cole Custer, Ford, 110.

22. (33) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 110.

23. (34) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.

24. (24) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 110.

25. (32) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 110.

26. (28) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 110.

27. (31) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 110.

28. (26) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 110.

29. (29) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 110.

30. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 110.

31. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 110.

32. (36) Cody Ware, Ford, 109.

33. (35) Scott Heckert, Ford, 109.

34. (30) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 101.

35. (5) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 97.

36. (27) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Engine, 9.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 78.008 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 3.849 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 14 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1-26;C. Elliott 27-52;J. Logano 53-56;C. Buescher 57-60;D. Suárez 61-81;B. Keselowski 82-84;D. Suárez 85-110.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Daniel Suárez 2 times for 47 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 26 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 26 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 4 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 3 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,22,18,31,10,21,77,45,47,51
Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,10,17,99,4,38,21,34,47,12

Greg Engle