Daniel Suarez logs first Cup win at Sonoma, makes NASCAR history
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
SONOMA, Calif. — Daniel Suarez’s fan club comes out in droves at racetracks where the Mexican driver has a lot of fans.
Suarez gave more than 300 of them something to cheer about Sunday. And he screamed and cried.
The 30-year-old driver led 47 of the final 50 laps, including the last 26 circuits on the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway road course, to earn his first Cup victory in his 195th start as he became the first driver from Mexico to win in NASCAR’s top series.
"I was always dreaming of winning in the Cup Series," Suarez said. "I knew it was going to be a tough journey."
Here are three takeaways from a historic Sunday at Sonoma.
Suarez’s international appeal
Suarez became only the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Cup race and the first since Australia’s Marcos Ambrose won in 2012. The other foreign-born drivers to win in Cup were Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada) and Mario Andretti (Italy).
"My story is very similar to many, many Mexicans and Latinos out there coming to this country trying to find their dream," said Suarez, who celebrated in part by punching apart a piñata filled with chocolate on the frontstretch following the race.
"I was able to make it happen. ... I’m just very, very proud to be an example for many."
Suarez came to the United States 10 years ago, not knowing English, and he learned the language by watching cartoons. He said there have been times when he thought about returning to Mexico.
"At the time, I was scared not to be able to compete because I didn’t speak English," he said. "I didn’t have money to buy myself classes to speak English, so I had to learn by myself by watching movies and watching cartoons and reading."
Suarez won the Xfinity Series championship in 2016 for Joe Gibbs Racing and then unexpectedly found himself in a Cup ride after Carl Edwards abruptly retired from JGR in the offseason.
Suarez spent two years in Cup at JGR and two more at Stewart-Haas Racing, earning four top-5s with each organization — good but not good enough to keep a ride.
In 2021, after a season with the underfunded Gaunt Brothers Racing, Suarez landed the ride at the new Trackhouse Racing, co-owned by driver Justin Marks and famed musician Pitbull. Trackhouse, now in its second year, had won twice this season with Ross Chastain and now has three victories.
"I have never met a more determined, focused, hard-working race car driver in my 20 years in this sport," Marks said of Suarez.
"Every single morning, he wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to be the best version of myself I can be today, and I’m going to do all the work I can possibly do to win this race.' It’s amazing how consistent he is, how that fire continues to burn so bright."
The confidence came from being knocked down and getting back up.
"I come from a very humble family, and every step of my life has cost me a lot," Suarez said. "It was important to remember if I was able to come all the way here, I wasn’t going to give up here.
"My confidence was high. But obviously, knowing you haven’t won yet, there’s a little bit of doubt. But I knew that I was fast. I knew I could race with the guys that were winning. ... Bad luck doesn’t last forever, but tough people do."
Pit road miscues cost contenders
Kyle Larson was the early leader, but a wheel came off following a pit stop, not only ruining his day but also likely costing him his crew chief and two crew members for four races.
Chase Elliott, who like Larson led 26 laps, overshot his pit stop, resulting in a tail-of-the-field penalty from which he couldn’t recover.
Kevin Harvick had a pit stop that took twice as long as it should have, ruining any chance he had to win. He settled for fourth.
"We didn’t finish where we should have," Harvick said. "We took away all our chances. ... We screw up every week."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!