SONoma, Calif. (AP) — Daniel Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, passing Chris Bucher for a historic victory at the Sonoma Speedway.
Suarez, a 30-year-old Monterrey native, finally won his 195th career Cup Series race which began in 2017. He also drove a Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to his third Cup Series victory of the season for this rookie from two teams. . The one-year-old is owned by former driver Justin Marks and music star Pitbull.
Suarez passed Buescher and took the lead at the start of the final stage on this hilly circuit in Northern California’s wine country, persevering through a pit stop and warning to show up with 23 laps to go. Buescher pressed him hard but Suarez didn’t make any big mistakes as he rode to victory.
“It’s madness,” said Suárez. “I have a lot of ideas in my head at the moment. It was a tough race in the cup series and these guys believed in me. I have a lot of people to thank in Mexico. My family, they don’t care about me. “Never gave up. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. I’m happy just because we made it work.”
Suarez’s team went wild at the end, even pulling out a festive taco-shaped piñata. Suárez demanded the piñata every time he scored his first victory and secured a playoff berth, and he celebrated by punching a holeshot.
“They believed in me from day one” Suárez said about his team. “(We have) all the people, all the resources to make it happen.”
Suarez then briefly addressed his fans in Spanish saying: “This is the first of a long series.”
Buescher’s second place was also his best of the season in his RFK Racing Ford. He failed to achieve the second victory of his career.
“It hurts to be so close, but congratulations to Suarez.” Buscher said. “We were trying, trying to get it. He lacked power there.”
Suarez, who won the Xfinity Series championship in 2016, is the fifth foreign-born driver to win the Cup Series race, joined by Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, Australian Marcos Ambrose, Canadian Earl Ross and Italian Mario Andrétti.
The success of Suarez and Trackhouse Racing could be a welcome boost for a sport keen to expand its cultural footprint. After moving to the United States 11 years ago with a desire to compete on bigger stages, Suarez is a huge achievement for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which aims to bring fresh perspectives and new horizons to a largely monocultural for most of its history.
Michael McDowell finished third of the season against Kevin Harvick in cloudy conditions at the first Sonoma Raceway Cup Series at full capacity since before the coronavirus pandemic. The crowd included about 350 rowdy fans of Suarez’s program, Daniel’s Amigos, which allows kids from various NASCAR cities to watch races.
Austin Sendrick finished fifth in the final race before a week-long break mid-season in the Cup Series.
Sonoma Raceway recreated Chute’s 1.99-mile track layout for this race after using the longer course configuration in the previous two editions in 2019 and 2021. The shorter track does not appear to lead to more contact in the race, and not much happened in the first two stages won by Larson and Joey in Lugano.
Defending champion Kyle Larson led the first stage, but the defending series champion fell back, eventually losing his right front tire 27 laps ago. Larson started in the lead for the fifth consecutive time in the race closest to his childhood home in suburban Sacramento, but his decision not to dig in on the first stage left him buried in the field from the. He finished fifteenth.
After the break, the season resumes with a trip to the Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26.
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