Daniel Suarez out-duels Chris Buescher at Sonoma for first victory

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Daniel Suarez grabbed a flag and lit up his tires down the pit straight at Sonoma Raceway. His crew lined the wall, overcome with joy. After Trackhouse Racing team owner, Justin Marks, reached in to hug him, Suarez climbed out and waved the flag. To top it all off, he punched a taco piñata.

No, you didn’t mis-read that!

SONOMA, Calif. – JUNE 12: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022, in Sonoma, California. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

“These guys believe in me,” he said. “Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me to get in this point. I lot 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).”

Suarez, who was all but left for dead by Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, etched his name among the list of 202 drivers to win a NASCAR Cup Series race.

“It’s (a) crazy day,” he 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.”

It’s his first victory in 195 career starts. Furthermore, he’s the fifth driver born outside the United States to win a Cup Series race.

Daniel Suarez out-duels Chris Buescher at Sonoma for first victory

The rest of the top-10

SONOMA, Calif. – 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: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Chris Buescher tailed Suarez for much of the final 23 laps, but lost touch with him in the waning laps and finished runner-up, 3.849 seconds behind.

“Yeah, I’m just disappointed in myself,” he said. “Didn’t get the job done there. Apologize to these guys because they put an awesome Fifth/3rd Bank Mustang underneath me this weekend. Heck of a return. We had a lot of speed. Just struggled for a little bit of long-run speed, wearing rears out. Just didn’t get it done when it counted.

“It’s an awesome run. Awesome recovery from COTA, what we had there. Everybody back at RFK is doing a great job. Hurts to be that close, but congratulations to Suarez. We were trying, trying to get him. Ran out of steam there.”

Michael McDowell rounded out the podium in third.

“You know, we just fired off a little on the slow side but we were really good on the long run,” he said. “We started to reel the leaders in there the last five laps but it just took a little too long to get going.”

Kevin Harvick recovered from a pit road miscue by his crew to finish fourth and Austin Cindric earned his first top-five finish since his Daytona 500 victory in fifth.

“Our GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang was good,” Harvick said. “We had our minimum of once-a-week catastrophic failure on pit road and got back as far forward as we could, as usual. It is what it is, I guess. We didn’t finish where we should have.”

Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-10.

Daniel Suarez out-duels Chris Buescher at Sonoma for first victory

Race summary

SONOMA, Calif. – JUNE 12: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, leads the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022, in Sonoma, California. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kyle Larson led the field to green at 4:18 p.m. ET. He led all 25 laps of the first stage to win it. Elliott, who short-pitted the stage (along with 21 other drivers), stayed out under the stage break to inherit the lead.

He ducked onto pit road on Lap 53, then reversed into his stall to secure a wheel. Compounding the matter, he was outside the box when his changer bolted the tire, which dropped him to the rear for the restart.

Joey Logano stayed out, took the lead and won the second stage. After NASCAR rescinded his penalty, Buescher assumed the lead and led the field back to green on Lap 61. Suarez out-braked him into Turn 4a to yank it from Buscher on Lap 62.

He pitted from the lead with 29 laps to go, which handed the lead to Keselowski. The second caution for cause flew with 28 to go, after Larson lost his right-front wheel in Turn 2.

Suarez cycled back to the lead and led the field back to green with 23 laps to go and out-drove Buescher to collect his first career victory.

What else happened

Bubba Wallace blew an engine climbing up Turn 3a on Lap 10.

He told FOX Sports’ Vince Welch that he didn’t over-rev the engine and “was doing less shifting” than he did in practice.

“I hate it,” he said. “I hate it for our team. I hate it for all of our partners. We deserve to be finishing a lot better than we have been these last couple of months. Like you said, the hits keep coming. We’ve got to bounce back. There is nothing like some good adversity to pipe through to get us back where we need to be, but it’s just a bummer. TRD is the best. We will figure it out. We’re all scratching our heads trying to figure it out, but just an unfortunate end to our day.”

Aside from the two stage breaks, the aforementioned Larson caution and a few spins, this was a light race for cautions.

Daniel Suarez out-duels Chris Buescher at Sonoma for first victory

Nuts and bolts

SONOMA, Calif. – JUNE 12: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates with a Mexican flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022, in Sonoma, California. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The race lasted two hours, 48 minutes and 22 seconds, at an average speed of 78.008 mph. There were six lead changes among six different drivers and four cautions for 14 laps.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story said Kevin Harvick occupied the cutoff spot.

Elliott leaves Sonoma with a 16-point lead over Chastain. With four race winners outside the top-16, Aric Almirola occupies the cutoff spot in 11th, with a 42-point lead over Tyler Reddick*.

TOP IMAGE: Sean Gardner/Getty Images