Daniel Suarez Gets His First NASCAR Cup Series Win at Sonoma

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Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA — June 12, 2022

The NASCAR Cup Series makes a stop at a road course this Sunday with Sonoma Raceway hosting the Save Mart 350. Taking a break from the ovals is an opportunity for a driver to make their mark on the twisting turns that showcase turning right as well as left. It may well provide the chance for a driver that has not won this year to enter his name into the playoff picture.

Active Sonoma Race Winners Wins Seasons
Martin Truex Jr 3 2019, 2018, 2013
Kyle Busch 2 2015, 2008
Kyle Larson 1 2021
Kevin Harvick 1 2017
Kurt Busch 1 2011

One of those drivers who has yet to visit victory lane this year is Martin Truex Jr., the active wins leader at Sonoma. He is going to have the benefit of an old ally to help his effort to get into the win column in 2022.

Joe Gibbs Racing has called on Cole Pearn to return to the No. 19 team this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and will serve as race engineer assisting crew chief James Small. Pearn previously served as crew chief for Truex from 2015 to 2019 leading him to 24 wins, 70 top fives, 110 top 10s, and the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series title before retiring at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

Two of Truex’s three victories at Sonoma Raceway have come with Pearn at his side (2018, 2019). In total, Truex has made 15 series starts at Sonoma posting three wins (2013, 2018, 2019), five top-fives, and six top 10s. He also leads all active drivers in laps led at the track with 213.

Another Driver Needing a Win

Kevin Harvick’s 12-year streak of making the Playoffs is in jeopardy. One of the most consistent drivers in recent NASCAR Cup Series history seems to be spinning the tires as of late. Kevin Harvick’s last win was in 2020 (Bristol) and he has dropped outside the Playoff cutline following World Wide Technology Raceway in the standings. Now, his streak of the last 12 consecutive seasons of making the Playoffs could be interrupted.

The veteran, Harvick, hasn’t missed a postseason in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2009, and he is tied with Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time most Playoff appearances with 15 each. Hamlin and Busch have already won this season assuring they will move on to their 16th Playoff appearance, but Harvick hasn’t won yet and now find himself two points behind Tyler Reddick in the 16th and final transfer spot on points.

Harvick has won at Sonoma (2017) but finished 22nd in last season’s race. Thankfully, this season the track configuration will return to the 1.99-mile length and incorporate the ‘chute’, the same one Harvick last won on. In total, Harvick has made 20 starts at Sonoma posting one win and six top-fives.

Road Course Specialists

Active Road Course Winners Total Wins Sonoma WGI Charlotte Daytona Indy COTA Road America
Chase Elliott 7 0 2 2 1 0 1 1
Kyle Busch 4 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
Martin Truex Jr 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Larson 3 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Kevin Harvick 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
Joey Logano 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kurt Busch 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Blaney 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Christopher Bell 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Denny Hamlin 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Chastain 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

Kyle Larson won the pole for today’s race with Chase Elliott beside him on the front row. Elliott is the active all-time road course winner with seven victories. Larson has three.

Today’s Race

Larson is the defending champion of today’s race. The 110 laps to be run are divided into Stages of 25/30/55 laps and weather may be a factor as the race begins under overcast skies.

Michigan’s Erik Jones is 26 points out of the 16th and final playoff spot. Jones has run consistently in the top-10 the past few weeks. He will need a strong effort to get there today as he starts 33rd after a poor qualifying effort.

Sonoma is the final race on Fox Sports for this season. After the week off for Father’s Day the series returns the following week at Nashville Superspeedway NBC Sports takes over as NASCAR’s broadcast partner for the remainder of the 2022 schedule

Stage One

Kyle Larson(5) jumped to the lead at the drop of the green flag, his teammate Chase Elliott(9) dropped in behind and the pair led the field as drivers scrambled for positions behind them.

Kyle Larson(5) and Chase Elliott(9) lead the field at the start of the Save Mart 500 from Sonoma Raceway / NASCAR Photo

Just nine laps into the event, Bubba Wallace(23) blew the engine in his race car bringing out the first caution of the day. Several drivers with ill-handling machines opted to come to pit road for service and adjustments in the hope of improving vehicle performance.

After working his way into the top-20 Erik Jones(43) spun unassisted off the course and dropped to the rear of the pack while he got turned around and back on the track.

Three laps before the end of Stage One most of the field pitted in an effort to improve track position for the start of the second Stage. Larson stayed on track to take the Stage win and the bonus points that accompany it.

Stage One Results

1 5 Kyle Larson 10
2 22 Joey Logano* 9
3 18 Kyle Busch 8
4 31 Justin Haley 7
5 10 Aric Almirola* 6
6 21 Harrison Burton* 5
7 77 Josh Bilicki 4
8 45 Kurt Busch 3
9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2
10 51 Cody Ware* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Elliott, who was one of the drivers that pitted early, led the field back to the green flag. He was followed by Chris Buescher(17), Ross Chastain(1), Daniel Suarez(99), and Tyler Reddick(8). Kyle Larson restarted in 24th position.

Buescher dogged Elliott through every corner during the first half of the Stage as they separated themselves from the remaining of the field. Over the same time frame, Larson moved from back in the pack into the top-15 turning laps faster than the leader.

Kevin Harvick(4) moved into the top-five when Chastain spun with six laps to go in the Stage, Chastain recovered quickly and only lost three positions. The racecourse remained under green. Almost everyone pitted prior to the end of the Stage including the leader.

Unfortunately, for Elliott, his crew failed to get the left rear wheel tight on the car. His crew stopped him before he got too far and had him back up into the pit stall. However, he did not back up far enough as the front of his race car remained outside of the box. The penalty, a return to pit road for a drive-through at reduced speed, cost Elliott a significant amount of track position and may have taken him out of contention for the win.

Joey Logano stayed on track to take the Stage win, grabbing the 10 bonus points and the one Playoff point awarded to Stage winners.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 22 Joey Logano* 10
2 10 Aric Almirola* 9
3 17 Chris Buescher* 8
4 99 Daniel Suarez 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 38 Todd Gilliland* 5
7 21 Harrison Burton* 4
8 9 Chase Elliott 3
9 34 Michael McDowell* 2
10 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Buescher held the lead on the restart but could not hold the top spot. Suarez drove to the front followed by Michael McDowell(34), Harvick, Buescher, and Brad Keselowski(6). All of the leaders are seeking their first win of the year and a ticket to the playoffs. Pole sitter Kyle Larson restarted in 12th, and Chase Elliott sat back in 34th after his crew’s mistake on pit road.

The extra laps in the Final Stage will require crews to make at least one more pit stop to make it to the end of the race. Whether that stop is under green or caution may determine who is in the best position to capture the checkered flag.

Harvick moved to the second spot briefly before Buescher found the handle and began tracking down the leaders moving to second and closing on Suarez.

Green flag pit stops began with cars back in the pack coming for service with 35 laps to go in the race. Buescher and Harvick pitted with 29 laps to go, Suarez came in one lap later.

Harvick had trouble on his pit stop and spent an extra 10 seconds getting service, costing him a lot of track position. Kyle Larson’s crew failed to get the right front wheel properly secured on his stop and the wheel flew off when he returned to the track bringing out the caution with 27 laps to go.

After the caution and all pit stops had cycled through it was Suarez back out front for the restart with Buescher in second, followed by McDowell, Ryan Blaney(12), and Austin Cindric(2).

Kyle Busch moved into the top-10 by virtue of his pit stop timing. But, he spun shortly after the green flag was displayed dropping him to the rear of the pack.

The Finish

With 10 laps to go, Suarez and Buescher again had separated themselves from the rest of the field. As the laps wound down Suarez began to increase the interval over Buescher. If he can hold on, it will be Suarez’s first cup series win and will qualify him for the playoffs.

With two laps to go, AJ Allmendinger spun off the track. He was able to right the car and return to racing without the caution being displayed. Suarez’s crew breathed a sigh of relief as their driver had built a four-second lead on Buescher in second.

Car owner Justin Marks of Trackhouse Racing can now celebrate both of his drivers qualifying for the playoffs as Suarez held on for the win joining teammate Ross Chastain as a winner during the 2022 season.

Teammates Daniel Suarez(99) and Ross Chastain(1) race at Sonoma Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Playoff Standings

Daniel Suarez’s win proved to be costly for the drivers hanging around the bubble for the final playoff spot. He entered the race 60 points out of the top-16, with Suarez now locked in the spots available to drivers hoping to point their way into the playoffs were reduced to four.

With a strong fourth-place finish, Kevin Harvick moved back into the 16th position. He sits just two points ahead of teammate Aric Almirola who dropped out of the top-16 for the first time this year.

Teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon now sit 29 and 34 points back respectively. Along with Michigan’s Erik Jones, 42 points back, the trio may need a win to qualify.

Since the introduction of the current playoff format, it has always been said; “Win and You’re In.” With 12 winners this year already it is possible that five more new winners could prove that statement false. Each time a new face appears in victory lane the available playoff spots for non-winners get reduced.

Another wrinkle to the qualifying process is that the regular-season points leader gets an automatic invite to the post-season. Ryan Blaney, a non-winner so far in 2022, is third in the standings currently. He trails points leader Chase Elliott by just 26 points and could become a spoiler in the process if he makes up that difference. A first-time win this season from anyone in the top-30 will result in further chaos in the standings.

Non-winners in 2022 outside of the top-20 include Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer, and Brad Keselowski.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Ross Chastain 520 In Win(2)
2 Joey Logano 487* In Win(2)
3 William Byron 466 In Win(2)
4 Denny Hamlin 325 In Win(2)
5 Chase Elliott 536 In Win
6 Kyle Busch 505 In Win
7 Kyle Larson 466 In Win
8 Alex Bowman 460 In Win
9 Chase Briscoe 386* In Win
10 Austin Cindric 362* In Win
11 Daniel Suarez 359 In Win
12 Kurt Busch 352 In Win
13 Ryan Blaney 510* +102
14 Martin Truex Jr. 481 +73
15 Christopher Bell 444 +36
16 Kevin Harvick 410* +2
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Cut Line
17 Aric Almirola 408* -2
18 Tyler Reddick 381 -29
19 Austin Dillon 376 -34
20 Erik Jones 368 -42

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 99 Daniel Suarez 110
2 17 Chris Buescher 3.849 110
3 34 Michael McDowell 5.682 110
4 4 Kevin Harvick 7.911 110
5 2 Austin Cindric 9.852 110
6 12 Ryan Blaney 12.975 110
7 1 Ross Chastain 13.966 110
8 9 Chase Elliott 16.141 110
9 24 William Byron 17.26 110
10 6 Brad Keselowski 17.734 110
11 3 Austin Dillon 32.135 110
12 31 Justin Haley 32.669 110
13 14 Chase Briscoe 33.485 110
14 10 Aric Almirola 34.527 110
15 5 Kyle Larson 35.364 110
16 48 Alex Bowman 35.506 110
17 22 Joey Logano 36.524 110
18 45 Kurt Busch 36.992 110
19 16 AJ Allmendinger 43.974 110
20 15 Joey Hand 44.307 110
21 41 Cole Custer 47.347 110
22 43 Erik Jones 51.157 110
23 42 Ty Dillon 52.005 110
24 38 Todd Gilliland 53.816 110
25 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 54.062 110
26 19 Martin Truex Jr. 56.999 110
27 20 Christopher Bell 57.861 110
28 21 Harrison Burton 65.784 110
29 77 Josh Bilicki 66.998 110
30 18 Kyle Busch 69.087 110
31 11 Denny Hamlin 69.278 110
32 51 Cody Ware -1 109
33 78 Scott Heckert -1 109
34 7 Corey LaJoie -9 101
35 8 Tyler Reddick -13 97
36 23 Bubba Wallace -101 9