Mexican driver Daniel Suarez won for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series Sunday, becoming the series’ fifth foreign-born winner by claiming the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
With 28 laps to go, polesitter Kyle Larson brought out the race’s fourth caution when his right front tire came off after making slight contact with Justin Haley’s No. 31 Chevrolet.
As Kyle Busch wrecked shortly after the 110-lap race’s last restart, Suarez paced the field in his No. 99 Chevrolet, with Chris Buescher racing behind him.
However, Buescher’s No. 17 Ford never really threatened Suarez around the 1.99-mile road course, and the 30-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native went on to the history-making victory.
The Trackhouse Racing driver joined Mario Andretti (Italy), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada) and Marcos Ambrose (Australia). Ambrose was the most recent, having won in 2012 at Watkins Glen.
Suarez, who earned the 2016 Xfinity Series championship while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, nabbed his first win in his 195th career start.
“I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez said. “It’s been a rough journey. These guys believe in me — Trackhouse Racing, (team owner) Justin Marks, everyone who helped me get to this point. My family never gave up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. Trackhouse has believed in me since Day 1.”
It was the third win of the year for Marks and Trackhouse, who also have had two wins by Ross Chastain.
“This one is difficult to put into words,” Marks said. “Daniel Suarez, (crew chief) Travis Mack helped build Trackhouse. They’ve been working so hard together, they’ve been so focused and dedicated getting into victory lane. (Chastain) winning two races was tough on them, but they never gave up and knew they belonged in victory lane.”
Buescher finished second by 3.849 seconds, followed by Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric.
After the weekend’s qualifying session, the front row looked exactly like it did last year — with Larson on the pole and teammate Chase Elliott right beside him. In that one, the Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in that order as they battled their way around the road course in the state’s wine country.
At the race’s start, defending winner Larson led his No. 5 Chevrolet around every circuit and claimed Stage 1, a short, 25-lap sprint that allowed the drivers to feel out their cars in the second road-course event of 2022.
Following his stage win, Larson pitted and turned the lead over to Elliott, who had come in for service before the segment ended. A seven-time winner on road courses, Elliott kept the No. 9 Chevrolet at the point over Buescher.
But Elliott’s team had a loose wheel while servicing his car with two laps to go in Stage 2 and worked on it outside the pit box, creating a drive-through penalty that Elliott had to serve. Meanwhile, Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford inherited the lead and won Stage 2 over Aric Almirola.