Daniel Suarez Wins at Sonoma to Become TrackHouse Racing's Latest NASCAR Success Story

·5 min read
Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Few fans north of the Rio Grande will remember Sunday afternoon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350-K at Sonoma Raceway as a classic road race.

There were only six leaders, not a single on-track lead change under green, the winner won by 3.849 seconds, three drivers combined to lead 99 of the 110 laps in huge segments, and half the four cautions were for stage breaks, the other two for debris.

But none of that mattered south of the border, where sports fans were deliriously overjoyed as Mexican favorite Daniel Suarez of Monterey got his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. It came with newcomer team Chevrolet-based Trackhouse Racing, which earlier this season got its first two victories from Ross Chastain.

The storyline is simple: pole-winner and defending race winner Kyle Larson easily led the first 26 laps to win Stage 1; Chase Elliott led laps 27-52 before pitting, leaving Joey Logano to lead 53-56 and steal Stage 2; Chris Buescher led 57-60 before Suarez led 61-81 after a quicker pit stop; Brad Keselowski led 82-84, before Suarez took over and led the final 26. There was only a dicey moment or two before he pulled away toward the end.

Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Understandably, the 30-year-old was deeply moved by his long-awaited success. “It’s a crazy day,” he said, beginning to tear up. “I have so many thoughts in my head right now. It’s been a rough road; a rough journey in the Cup Series. These guys believe in me - Trackhouse Racing, (owner) Justin Marks, (general manager) Ty Norris. Everyone who helped me to get to this point.

“My family… they never give up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. And I didn’t, either. I’m very happy we were able to make it work. This is the first one of many.”

Buescher finished second—fading badly toward the end after challenging with 15 laps remaining—followed by Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney, Chastain, Elliott, William Byron, and Brad Keselowski.

Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity Series champion with Joe Gibbs Racing, is the fifth foreign-born driver to win at NASCAR’s highest level. Mario Andretti (Italy) won the 1967 Daytona 500 in a Ford for Holman-Moody, Earl Ross (Canada) won at Martinsville in 1974 in a Chevrolet for Junior Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) won at Sonoma in 2007 and at Watkins Glen in 2010, both in Chevrolets for Chip Ganassi, and Marcos Ambrose (Australia) won in Fords at Watkins Glen for Richard Petty in 2011 and 2012.

Suarez is the 12th winner in the season’s first 16 races, leaving four spots available in the 10-race, 16-driver Playoffs that begin at Darlington in September. He’s also this year’s fourth first-time winner, after Austin Cindric at Daytona Beach, Chase Briscoe at Phoenix, and Chastain at COTA and Talladega.

But Wait, There's More

• Before the race, NASCAR used its FOX-TV partnership to announce that next year’s pre-season Busch Light Clash exhibition race will return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum and its purpose-built quarter-mile track around the football field will host the race on Feb. 5, two weeks before the Daytona 500.

• Cliff Daniels, crew chief for defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, faces a four-race suspension after a right-front tire broke loose and came off Larson’s car at Sonoma. It’s expected that three other crewmen also will be suspended for the rule violation.

• Cup teams get the June 18-19 weekend off after running 16 consecutive races. The series will return for a 400-miler the weekend of June 25-26 at the Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. That will mark the beginning of a streak of 20 consecutive races leading into the Nov. 6 Playoff championship race at Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway.

NASCAR Cup Series Race

33rd Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350

Sonoma, California

Results

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