Nunca te rindas en tus sueños…Never give up on your dreams.
That was the lone caption on Daniel Suárez’s first tweet after becoming the fifth internationally born driver (the first from Mexico) to win a NASCAR Cup Series race.
The sentimental favorite amongst most fans and drivers throughout his career, Suárez took advantage of mistakes by early leaders Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson to dominate the final stage at the road course in Sonoma, California.
After being rushed to NASCAR’s top level by Joe Gibbs Racing following his Xfinity Series Championship and Carl Edwards’ retirement, Suárez has bounced around the garage area, driving for Stewart-Haas, Gaunt Brothers Racing, and finally landing at Justin Marks’ upstart Trackhouse team. The first season, in which Suárez was the only driver there, was a bit of a struggle, but Suárez has shown signs of being capable of pulling off wins for a long time. This season in particular, everything seems to be coming together.
After he crossed the line, Suárez led a legendary celebration with his team and of course, his “amigos:” the official Daniel Suárez fan club was out in full force in Sonoma on Sunday. Draped in the flag of his homeland, the driver of the 99 smiled from ear to ear and posed for photos with his fans who have stuck by him through everything, even the Gaunt Brothers days. In his post race news conference, the pride of Monterrey, Mexico summed it up perfectly. “Bad luck doesn’t last forever. But tough people do.”
Bad luck seemed to plague everyone but the winner on Sunday, especially in the Hendrick camp. Kyle Larson won the pole but couldn’t stay out front after trying to get off sequence with pit strategy. Larson made a valiant effort to fight back and defend his win from last year, but on the final pit stop, the 5 team made a critical error. The right front wasn’t completely tightened and going up the hill off pit road, it left Larson’s Chevrolet. Looks like there will be suspensions coming to add insult to injury.
Control of the race then was passed to his teammate Chase Elliott. “The Road Course King” did what he does best throughout stage two, and appeared poised to notch his eighth win on a road course. That is, until his final pit stop of stage two. Elliott brought the number 9 to pit road and just as he was pulling away, the crew stopped Elliott and backed him back towards his stall. The right rear wasn’t tight, and to further compound the issue, the crew tightened it with the nose of the NAPA Chevrolet outside of the box. This brought on a pass through penalty that sent Elliott all the way to 34th. In typical Elliott-on-a-road-course fashion though, he brought it home eighth and retained the points lead.
There were a whole lot of good stories besides Suárez on Sunday. Chris Buescher, who missed Gateway after testing positive for COVID-19, notched his best finish of the season. The RFK driver finished runner-up, followed by 2021 Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell in third. That’s McDowell’s best finish since winning the 500 in 2021. Kevin Harvick notched a much-needed fourth and Austin Cindric rounded out the top-five.
After last week’s controversy, Ross Chastain had a pretty quiet Sonoma, running top-10 most of the day and really suffering only violent verbal jabs in the booth from Tony Stewart. Chastain finished seventh, just behind Ryan Blaney in sixth. William Byron and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-10.
It was a historically bad day for Joe Gibbs Racing. None of the powerhouse team’s Toyotas were very fast or near the front at all during the race. Road course ace Martin Truex Jr. led the way for the team with his 26th place finish. Christopher Bell was behind him in 27th, and Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch brought up the rear finishing 30th, and 31st respectively.
The Cup Series heads into its only off weekend of the season this weekend on a pretty good emotional high after Daniel Suárez finally captured his first win. I personally am very excited for the next race at Nashville, because it means NBC Sports takes over coverage of the season after a less than mediocre job by Fox Sports. That’s a conversation for another day though. Wishing every dad out there including mine a Happy Father’s Day!
Photo credit to Pat @Puffadda on Twitter