SONOMA, Calif. – Daniel Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, holding off Chris Buescher for a historic win at Sonoma Raceway.
Suarez, a 30-year-old from Monterrey, eventually won in the 195th career start of a Cup series career that began in 2017. He also drove his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to a third consecutive Cup win of the season for the rising 2-year-old team co-owned by former driver Justin Marks and music star Pitbull.
Suarez passed Buescher and took over early in the final stage on this hilly road course in Northern California’s wine country, and he persevered through a pit stop and a caution to take the lead with 23 laps to go. Buescher aggressively pushed him, but Suarez made no notable mistakes as he rolled to victory.
“It’s crazy,” said Suarez. “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 have many people in Mexico to thank. To my family, they never gave up on me. Lots of people did it, but they didn’t. I’m just glad we were able to get it working.
Suarez’s team celebrated at the end and even whipped out a celebratory pinata in the shape of a taco. The pinata was requested by Suarez whenever he clinched his first win and secured a playoff spot – and he celebrated by punching a hole through 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 a season best in his RFK Racing Ford. He just missed his second career win.
“It hurts to be so close but congratulations to Suarez,” said Buescher. “We tried, tried to get him. That’s when we ran out of breath.”
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-born American Mario Andretti.
The success of Suarez and Trackhouse Racing could be a welcome boost for a sport keen to expand its cultural footprint. Having moved to the United States 11 years ago with a desire to race on bigger stages, Suarez is a huge success story for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which aims to bring fresh perspectives and backgrounds to an organization that largely monocultural was history.
Michael McDowell finished the first race of Sonoma Raceway’s full-capacity Cup Series since before the coronavirus pandemic in cloudy conditions as the best third of the season ahead of Kevin Harvick. Among those in attendance were about 350 fans of Suarez’s Daniel’s Amigos program, which allows children to race in several NASCAR cities.
Austin Cindric finished fifth in the last race before the week-long mid-season break of the Cup Series.
Sonoma Raceway restored the 1.99 mile Chute course layout for this race after using the longer carousel configuration in the previous two editions in 2019 and 2021. The shorter distance didn’t seem to translate into more contact in the race and not much happened in the first two stages, won by Kyle Larson and Joey Logano.
Defending champion and pole-sitter Larson led the first stage but then fell behind and eventually lost his right front tire with 27 laps to go. Larson was starting for the fifth straight year at the race closest to his childhood home in the Sacramento suburbs, but his decision not to pit for the first stage had him buried in the field from there. He turned 15.
After the break, the season resumes on Sunday, June 26 with a trip to the Nashville Superspeedway.