Daniel Suarez scores first Cup win at Sonoma Raceway
Daniel Suarez finally rolled into a NASCAR Cup Series victory lane Sunday, outrunning Chris Buescher over the closing miles to win the second road course race of the season at Sonoma Raceway.
Taking the checkered flag first for for the first time virtually guarantees Suarez, a former Xfinity Series champion, a spot in the playoffs. He became the 12th different winner of the season.
The victory marked only the fifth in the Cup Series by a foreign-born driver. Suarez is from Mexico and becomes the first driver from that country to win a Cup race.
Buescher, Michael McDowell and Kevin Harvick chased Suarez during the race’s final stage, but Suarez, in his sixth season in Cup, generally maintained a lead of at least a second. By race’s end, he was almost five seconds ahead of second-place Buescher.
The win gives the Trackhouse Racing team three wins for the season. Ross Chastain has won twice.
Following Buescher in the top five were McDowell, Harvick and Austin Cindric.
Kyle Larson, who won the pole, was clearly the boss of the first stage, leading all 25 laps without a serious challenge.
Larson started the second stage in the middle of the pack after pitting, leaving Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott in the lead. Elliott retained a comfortable lead during most of the second stage. Elliott pitted from the lead with three laps left in the stage, leaving the stage win to Joey Logano. Elliott then was hit with a penalty for pitting outside of his pit box, dropping him to the rear of the field for the stage of the final stage.
Larson’s victory hopes plummeted with 27 laps to go when the right front wheel on his Chevrolet came off, sending Larson off course and then onto the pit road. Because of the wheel issue, four-race suspensions for some team members likely will follow this week.
The race’s first incident occurred on lap 10 as Bubba Wallace blew an engine in his Toyota and sailed off course.
Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson
Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano
Who had a good race: Daniel Suarez turned his 195th Cup start into gold, entering victory lane for the first time and virtually assuring a place in the playoffs. He became the fourth driver to win for the first time this season. ... Chris Buescher chased Saurez most of the final stage and finished second, scoring a top three for the second time in the past three road-course events. ... Brad Keselowski remains winless on road courses, but he had a strong day, finishing 10th and in the top 10 for the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500.
Who had a bad race: Kevin Harvick finished fourth, but a long pit stop robbed him of a shot at contending for the win, leading him to criticize his team after the race. ... Kyle Larson won the pole and was fast in the first stage, but his Chevrolet later lost a wheel, dropping him to a 15th-place finish and likely leading to team member suspensions. ... Bubba Wallace blew an engine only 10 laps into the race and finished last.
Next: The Cup Series is off next weekend and returns to action June 26 at Nashville Superspeedway (5 p.m. ET on NBC).