NASCAR Sonoma 2022 Toyota/Save Mart 350 series: Suarez finds his groove, wins at Sonoma

Nothing fine but the wine and a win at the NASCAR Sonoma Toyota/Save Mart 350 series as race car driver Daniel Suarez enjoys a post race beverage at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma on Sun Jun 12, 2022 (AP News photo)

Suarez finds his groove, wins at Sonoma

By Tom Zulewski

SONOMA – After 194 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series – including just two top-5 finishes in 2022 – Daniel Suarez was a driver in search of any good break he could find. When the third stage of the second road course race of the season was finished, Suarez earned his own slice of history.

Leading for 47 of the final 55 laps, Suarez won the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12. The driver of the No. 99 Chievrolet for Trackhouse Racing earned hi s first Cup victory, became the second driver (Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007) to win his first race on a road course, and became just the fifth foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR Cup race.

Suarez beat runner-up Chris Buescher – who returned to the No. 17 car after missing last week’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway due to COVID protocols – by nearly four full seconds.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Suarez said of his initial reaction to the moment after taking the checkered flag. “I’ve been working very hard for this moment not only for myself, but for my whole team. I’m very lucky to have great people around me.”

One of Suarez’ biggest supporters is his owner at Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks. Marks had the utmost confidence that a breakthrough and celebration in Victory Lane would happen.

“Daniel checked a lot of boxes for us right away,” Marks said. “He’s an experienced Cup driver and he’s won when he’s been in position to win with his XFINITY championship (2016) and his truck wins. He’s had a chip on his shoulder and wanted to prove he belonged in the Cup series.”

When he took the lead from Buescher as Stage 3 began, Suarez was finally able to crush the chip and leave no doubt he belongs in NASCAR’s top series. The only time Suarez wasn’t at the front of the 36-car field came when Brad Keselowski led for a three-lap stretch from Lap 82 through 84.

A debris caution allowed Suarez to move back in front, and he stayed there over the final 26 laps to secure the win as his red-shirt supporters cheered loudly from the grandstands.

With teammate Ross Chastain already in the win column from the EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in March, the confidence had more than enough carryover for Suarez, who qualified 8th for the Toyota/SaveMart 350.

“We came here with a lot of road-course confidence,” Suarez said. “We didn’t have the best car today, but I felt like we made the right calls and the results showed that.”

Suarez gave additional credit to team engineer Jose Velasco, who wasn’t able to be at Sonoma due to illness.

“He called me crying,” Suarez said of Velasco, who was at home in Mexico City. “He’s a big part of this team.”

In the final stretch that gave Suarez the win, no words were necessary.

“”I just tried to stay calm,” he said. “I wanted to do my thing and didn’t want too much noise on the radio. I was controlling what I could control, and fi the caution came out, I was going to fight again.”

After Buescher, Michael McDowell finished third, while Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric completed the top five. The race had four cautions for 14 laps, and the winning average speed was 78.008 mph.

The NASCAR Cup Series is off for Father’s Day and will return to racing June 26 at Nashville SuperSpeedway.

NASCAR Sonoma Raceway: Larson survives chaos, wins at Sonoma

The wine is just fine at the Sonoma Raceway where Kyle Larson celebrates the NASCAR Cup Series auto race in Sonoma Sun Jun 6, 2021 (AP News photo)

Larson survives chaos, wins at Sonoma

By Tom Zulewski

SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson had a car that was untouchable as it zoomed around the Sonoma Raceway road course June 6. Several late restarts gave his challengers slivers of hope they could catch and pass him for the win.

With additional energy from his hometown crowd, Larson pulled through and continued to build on an increasingly successful 2021 season.

Larson survived a two-lap shootout, swept all three stages and took the checkered flag to win the Toyota/SaveMart 350. The Hendrick Motorsports driver won for the second straight week, earned his third win of the season, and gave team owner Rick Hendrick the company’s 270th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1984.

A native of nearby Elk Grove, Larson had his toughest competition from Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott, who led for 13 laps and finished second.

“Stretching out from Chase and slowing down helped me learn the track,” said Larson, who tied Martin Truex Jr. for most wins on the 2021 season. “The car was unbelievable, and now we have some wins to show for it.”

Cycling through pit stops pushed Larson back at times during the race, but it didn’t take long for the No. 5 car to make up the deficit, no matter who was up front among seven different drivers. Crew chief Cliff Daniels was surprised at how good the car was, especially during the three late-race restarts.

“I didn’t expect to see us make up ground that quick,” Daniels said. “Kyle nailed all three restarts perfectly.”

Larson’s win pulled him within 47 points of leader Denny Hamlin, who finished eighth at Sonoma.

“I’ve had a few good weeks, won stages, and took some huge chunks off the deficit,” Larson said. “Just keep gaining stage points, run up front and be smooth.”

Facing his teammate in Elliott, it clearly wasn’t easy for Larson to finish the job, especially with the race extended to two overtime laps.

“I was hoping to get a better launch so I was clear into Turn 2, but lost a bit of front grip,” Larson said. “I couldn’t get to the gas as soon as I needed to, so Chase was able to stay close. I got better outbraking him into the corners, so I could pass pretty easily.”

With the sweep at Sonoma, Larson extended his Cup-best stage win total to 11, well out in front in the series. Martin Truex Jr., who was looking for a third straight win at Sonoma, finished third, Joey Logano finished fourth and Kyle Busch completed the top five.

The race was slowed by cautions eight times for 18 laps, and the winning average speed was 71.445 mph.

Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Calif Legislature looking into legalizing sports betting;Wallace insists rope was noose (see photo) ; plus more

@bobpockrass photo: NASCAR’s only black driver Bubba Wallace’s crew member found a noose in his garage stall on Sunday night. Wallace had pushed for banning the Confederate flag symbols at NASCAR races. The FBI concluded from video evidence that the noose had been at stall number four since October 2019 long before Wallace was booked for that stall last weekend it was later determined it was not a noose but a door pull. Wallace on Don Lemon Tonight on CNN said he knows what a noose looks like adding, “tied in 2019 or now it was a noose.”

On Headline Sports podcast with Barbara:

#1 California Legislature is considering legalizing sports betting but casinos are putting up a fight as it would cut into their sports book business.

#2 Bubba Wallace NASCAR’s only black driver who two weeks ago pushed for banning the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. A member of Wallace’s crew found a noose in his garage stall late Sunday afternoon. After bringing in 15 FBI agents for an investigation into who left the noose in garage stall four where Wallace was at Talladega. Video evidence showed that the noose had been there since October 2019 and it was determined it was not a noose but a door pull.  No one would have known that Wallace would have been at that stall going forward. The FBI said they will not pursue federal charges. Wallace insisted on CNN’s Don Lemon Tonight on Tuesday night that it was a noose.

#3 Webb Simpson won the RBC Heritage on Sunday after finishing 7 under Par 64 at Harbour Town at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

#4 Tiz the Law set a record winning the Belmont Stakes last Saturday in what is one of the few live sports in the Coronavirus era. Tiz the Law with his victory became the first New York bred horse to win at the Belmont in 138 years.

#5 After someone who visited the San Francisco Giants training facility in Scottsdale who was Covid-19 positive the facility was immediately shut down on Friday night. The person was a family member and several other individuals are being tested who had come in contact with this positive tested person. Teams who have closed facilities Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and the Giants.

Join Barbara for Headline Sports each Tuesday night at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Larson drives his career off the road with racial slur; High school graduates might play overseas; plus more

cnn.com file photo: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson who was fired from his sponsors and supporters admitted as much that his career in NASCAR is pretty much over after using the N word in a irace car conference call on Tuesday morning

On Headline Sports with Barbara:

#1 How could race car driver Kyle Larson of Japanese decent say the N word during a iracecar conference call on Tuesday with a good number of the race car driver community listening in to the live call? Needless to say Larson admitted himself that his career is toast after being suspended from race car driving.

#2 Many high school graduates lost their dream going to a big college division one school as the school season is shut down. They lost the senior year celebration, the prom, and the chance at their first year in college basketball. Some may choose now to play over seas instead of college.

#3 Barbara as you know this time of the year the NHL and the NBA are in the playoffs and post season but it looks like it won’t happen and if it does there is talk it could take place as late as July or August.

#4 MLB whose thinking about a two league, three division system played in two different states Florida and Arizona. Will a format like this work in an abbreviated schedule and will there be much fan interest?

#5 Easter celebration took a toll on the players and fans and their kids with all the shut downs and non traditional ways to celebrate the holiday. But none the less the purpose of it all is to stay safe.

Barbara does Headline Sports each Tuesday night at http://www.sportsradioservice.com