After 195 career starts, Daniel Suarez is finally a NASCAR Cup Series winner.
The 30-year-old Suarez made history at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, becoming the first Mexican-born driver to win at NASCAR’s highest level. He led a race-high 47 laps, including the final 26 around the 12-turn road course, to seal the victory. To celebrate, Suarez waved the Mexican flag and smashed a taco piñata.
Next week, the Cup Series has its only off weekend for the remainder of the season. But when the action picks back up, NBC will take over from FOX to broadcast the final 20 races of the 2022 season – beginning with Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26.
So, who is the driver to beat through 16 weeks? Here’s our power rankings with 10 races to go before the playoffs:
1. Ross Chastain
Last week: 2
His teammate ended up in victory lane, but Chastain had a solid run at Sonoma to regain the top spot in the power rankings. Following an eventful day at Gateway, Chastain mostly kept his car clean and finished seventh. The 29-year-old is up to second in the points standings, as he’s scored more top-10s in 16 races this season (10) than he did in his first 115 starts combined (9).
2. Chase Elliott
Last week: 4
The seven-time road course winner likely would’ve added another victory if it weren’t for pit road problems at the end of Stage 2. Elliott led 26 laps before having to restart in 34th for the final stage. He recovered to finish eighth, which kept him in the points lead, but it was another race where the No. 9 team left potential points on the table.
3. Kyle Busch
Last week: 1
Sonoma was a real head-scratcher for Busch, who had been clicking on all cylinders lately. He finished 30th, as the Toyota camp was off the pace throughout the race. Busch’s streak of three straight top-three finishes is now over, and he fell behind Chastain to third in the standings.
4. Kyle Larson
Last week: 3
Is it fair to say that strategy cost Larson a win at Sonoma? Possibly. The hometown driver won Stage 1 after leading every lap, which cost him track position for Stage 2. When he was back in traffic, Larson’s car was never quick enough to get back out front. In the final stage, he suffered a loose wheel and finished 15th for his worst Sonoma finish since 2017.
5. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 5
Blaney delivered the quietest sixth-place finish of the season at Sonoma. He was an afterthought for most of the race despite running in the back half of the top-10. While he never had the speed to challenge the leaders, it was a productive points day for the driver still seeking his first win of 2022.
6. Joey Logano
Last week: 6
The boom-or-bust season continued for Logano at Sonoma after he won at Gateway last week. He finished 17th, but he did gamble to pick up a playoff point by winning Stage 2. In Logano’s last seven races, he has two wins and five finishes of 17th or worse.
7. William Byron
Last week: 9
Following his win at Martinsville, Byron went seven straight races without a top-10 finish. That streak finally ended at Sonoma with his ninth-place run, though he’s still not showing the speed that delivered him two wins early in the season. Perhaps Nashville – where Byron finished third last year – will be a turning point for him.
8. Martin Truex Jr.
Last week: 8
Like all the Toyotas, Truex struggled on Sunday (finishing 26th). That was especially concerning given that Sonoma is one of his best tracks. Still searching for a win, MTJ might start feeling the pressure as playoff spots fill up and he sits just 65 points above the cut line. The 41-year-old is also contemplating retirement, which could make for a hectic summer.
9. Kevin Harvick
Last week: first four out
After seven straight weeks in the “first four out” section, Harvick finally cracks the top 10. The 46-year-old finished fourth at Sonoma, which marked his third top-five finish in the last five races. Harvick’s still outside the playoff picture, but he’s only seven points behind his teammate Aric Almirola for the final spot. It should be a tight battle all summer.
10. Daniel Suarez
Last week: not ranked
This 10th position has become a rotating spot for whichever random winner steals the show. It’s definitely been an unusual year where five drivers outside the top-12 in the standings have won a race, which has totally jumbled up the playoff grid. As for Suarez, this win was a long time coming. He went out and earned this victory – and he’s finally found a permanent home after bouncing around early in his career. This season will mark his first playoff appearance.
First four out: Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch