Suarez started inside the top 10 after reaching the second round of qualifying, and he turned in the best performance of his entire career. He led a total of 47 laps, setting a new career-high for a single season at 203, and he held off several drivers on the final run to the checkered flag. Chris Buescher kept pace with Suarez for several laps while making his return from COVID-19, but the driver of the No. 99 built up a lead of more than five seconds before crossing the finish line first.
Along with becoming the first driver from Mexico to win a Cup Series race, Suarez also joined an elite list. He is one of only five foreign-born drivers to win at NASCAR’s top level. The others are Mario Andretti (1967 Daytona 500), Juan Pablo Montoya (Sonoma in 2007, Watkins Glen in 2010), Marcos Ambrose (Watkins Glen in 2011-12), and Earl Ross (Martinsville in 1974).
“It’s crazy day. I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez told FOX Sports’ Jamie Little after doing his celebratory burnout. “I mean, it’s been a rough road. It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series.
“These guys believe in me, Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me to get in this point. I lot of people in Mexico — Jay Morales, Carlos Slim. My family. They never give up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. Just very happy we were able to make it work.”
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Of course, Suarez had to showcase a special celebration after winning for the first time in the Cup Series. Ross Chastain traditionally smashes a watermelon after reaching Victory Lane, so the driver of the No. 99 could not go that route. Instead, he grabbed a pinata in the shape of a taco and smashed it on the ground.
The Win Shook Up the Playoff Picture
This win was crucial for Suarez. He entered the race weekend 20th in the championship standings after three consecutive finishes outside of the top 20. Suarez was in a must-win situation, which made him a longshot to join Chastain in the playoffs. Now, however, he is in the 16-driver field with 10 races remaining.
Suarez overtook multiple contenders by capturing the win at Sonoma Raceway. He now has an advantage over Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, and Christopher Bell. Though he will have to continue stacking points to further solidify his spot in the 16-driver field.
Reddick and Jones both struggled at Sonoma with separate issues, but Harvick turned in a strong performance. He entered the weekend as the first driver below the cutline, but he locked up six points in Stage 2 before finishing fourth overall.
Harvick made some moves at the road course, but a very slow pit stop kept him from battling with Suarez for the win. Now his former teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing has the advantage heading into the off-week.
Suarez Has Conquered Races Across All 3 Series
The race at Sonoma Raceway was historic for numerous reasons. Suarez became the first driver from Mexico to win a Cup Series race, and he also joined a prestigious list of drivers that have won at least one race across all three series. Though Suarez is the only driver from Mexico to achieve this feat.
Suarez only has one win in the Camping World Truck Series. He captured the 2016 race at Phoenix Raceway while running a part-time schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This is also the same year that he won the pole at Kentucky.
Suarez achieved considerable success in the Xfinity Series. He ran full-time in 2016 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he won three races. He also posted top-10 finishes in 27 of the 33 races before ending the season as the champion.