The race at Sonoma could have ended a lot differently than it did. But trouble found both of the early frontrunners and opened the door for Daniel Suarez to grab his first ever Cup win.
Initially it looked like a battle for the win between Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Larson won Stage 1 handily and appeared to be using the same strategy that won him his last race here. But pit road miscues stopped them both. Elliott pitted outside his pit box which meant he had to serve a penalty that mired him deep in the field, never a good thing at a road race. Larson lost a front tire and had to scrape his way back to the pits. Most likely we’ll see some sort of crew chief suspension this week for that. I am not what it is with this new tire and single hub but we have to have set a record for tires coming off of cars this year.
With those two leaders out of the picture, that left the race for the win between Suarez, Michael McDowell and Chris Buescher. Of course, anything could happen and Kevin Harvick could have been vying for his first win but these three drivers were the top qualifiers and they are all good road course races so unless someone had a wheel fall off, this was the battle.
It was obviously a popular win for the garage as driver after driver gave Suarez a ceremonial bump or rub on the cool down. Trackhouse Racing now had three wins on the season with Ross Chastain having two wins. For a team that hasn’t been around a long time, this is great news for the sport that has been fighting an image issue for years with the dominance of a few teams. Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick are still powerhouses that are not going away but seeing the wins spread out more is great news. In 15 races there have been 12 different winners. Hendrick has 5 of those wins, Gibbs has 3 and Penske has 3. So yeah, the big teams have their fair share of wins but look at the others: Trackhouse with 3, Stewart-Haas with 1 and 23XI with 1.
With just 10 races left in the regular season, a lot of drivers need to win or they will not make the playoffs. Drivers like Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones are on the bubble. With a five drivers outside the Top 10 with wins, that makes pointing their way in a lot more difficult.
There are two more road courses in July and one in August with a return to the high banks of Daytona in July as well. That makes 3 more opportunities for teams that are struggling on ovals to make hay and a Daytona race that could see anyone who avoids the wrecks to steal a win.
Good on ya, mate
- Daniel Suarez (P1) is one of the many feel good stories of 2022.
- Chris Buescher (P2) got a strong run and will need more like this to stay in the playoff hunt.
- Michael McDowell (P3) will have three more road courses to vie for a win.
- Kevin Harvick (P4) didn’t look like a contender but managed a Top 5.
- Austin Cindric (P5) needed this pick me up.
- Ryan Blaney (P6) had a good car but had a couple of tangles.
- Ross Chastain (P7) was the pole winner but didn’t lead a lap.
- Chase Elliott (P8) battled back to a Top 10 which is saying a lot.
- Brad Keselowski (P10) got his second Top 10 of the year. Second.
- Auston Dillon (P11) just missed a Top 10 and will need to do a lot more in the coming races.
So you had a bad day.
- Kyle Larson (P15) had a tire fall off and will likely see some penalties this week.
- Joey Logano (P17) won Stage 2 laps but that was just for Stage Points.
- AJ Allmendinger (P19) had to start deep because of unapproved changes. Better luck next time because he is fun to watch race.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P26) was nowhere to be seen.
- Denny Hamlin (P31) had some spin issues.
- Kyle Busch (P30) had issues and was probably very crabby at the end of the day. But he did win the truck race at Sonoma.
- Bubba Wallace (P36) lost an engine just 9 laps in. Weird to say the least.
Next up: Off week.
No race this weekend before the teams head to Nashville and start a two month dash for the final playoff positions. Lots of good drivers still looking for wins.
What’s your thoughts on Daniel Suarez’s first NASCAR Cup win? Leave your family-friendly comments in the box provided below.
Featured photo credit: Tom Copeland/HHP for Chevy Racing