SONOMA, Calif. — Daniel Suárez became the first driver born in Mexico to win a NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, holding off Chris Buescher for a historic victory at Sonoma Raceway.
Suárez, a 30-year-old native of Monterrey, won in the 195th career start of a Cup Series career that began in 2017. He also drove his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to the third Cup Series victory of the season for a quickly rising two-car team co-owned by former driver Justin Marks and music star Pitbull.
Suárez got past Buescher and took charge early in the final stage on the hilly road course in Northern California's wine country, and he persevered through a pit stop and a caution to emerge in front with 23 laps to go. Buescher pushed him aggressively in his RFK Racing No. 17 Ford, but Suárez made no significant mistakes while rolling to victory.
"It's crazy," Suárez said. "I have so many thoughts in my head right now. It's been a rough journey in the Cup Series, and these guys believed in me. I have a lot of people to thank in Mexico. My family, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn't. I'm just happy we were able to make it work."
Suarez had driven for two seasons Joe Gibbs Racing and one each for Stewart-Haas Racing and Gaunt Brothers Racing before landing with Trackhouse for its debut in 2021.
Suárez's team partied wildly when it was over, even pulling out a celebratory piñata shaped like a taco. The piñata was requested by Suárez for whenever he got his first win and clinched a spot in the playoffs — and he celebrated by punching a hole through it with his fist.
"They believed in me since day one," Suárez said of his team. "(We've got) all the people, all the resources to make it happen."
Suárez then addressed his fans briefly in Spanish, saying: "This is the first one of many."
Buescher's second-place finish was his best this year. He fell just short of his second career victory.
"Hurts to be that close, but congratulations to Suárez," Buescher said. "We were trying, trying to get him. Ran out of steam there."
Suárez, who won the second-tier Xfinity Series championship in 2016, is the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Cup Series race. He joins Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya, Australia's Marcos Ambrose, Canada's Earl Ross and Italian-born American Mario Andretti.
The success of Suárez and Trackhouse Racing could be a welcome boost to a sport eager to expand its cultural footprint. After moving to the U.S. 11 years ago with a desire to race on bigger stages, Suárez is a major success story for NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, which aims to bring new perspectives and backgrounds to a largely monocultural organization for much of its history.
The crowd included about 350 rowdy fans from Suárez's program, Daniel's Amigos, which allows kids in several NASCAR cities to attend races.
Front Row Motorsports' Michael McDowell finished a season-best third in front of fellow Ford driver Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Austin Cindric was fifth in the final event before a one-week break. The next race is June 26 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Indy: $1 million bonus
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Josef Newgarden wanted to thank the pet service that helped him adopt his 30-pound mutt, Axel, that has become part of his family. The Team Penske driver from Tennessee repaid the shelter with his performance behind the wheel.
Newgarden's third win of the season came with a $1 million bonus at Road America, where he completed a trifecta of victories on IndyCar's different types of circuits. That means, among other things, the Nashville chapter of Wags and Walks can build a new dog adoption center.
Newgarden also won this season on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway and the street course in Long Beach, California, so he headed to Road America searching for a road course victory that would make him the first IndyCar driver of the year to win on all three types of circuits.
The reward was a $1 million payout from The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, which split the bonus between Team Penske and charities of Newgarden's choice. The 31-year-old Nashville native with two IndyCar season championships selected Wags and Walks of Nashville and SeriousFun Children's Network.
"To have something like this challenge, I think, just fires you up more competitively," Newgarden said. "You want to get it done for them."
Newgarden beat Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing to the line by 3.371 seconds after two late restarts. Still, Ericsson's runner-up spot helped him regain the season points lead from Penske's Will Power, who finished 19th.
Andretti Autosports's Alexander Rossi, who started in pole position in search of his first win in three years, finished third and was followed by teammates Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta.
The next race is July 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Newgarden won last year.
F1: Red Bull goes 1-2
BAKU, Azerbaijan — Max Verstappen once again pounced when rival Charles Leclerc faltered in their battle for the Formula One season championship.
Verstappen extended his lead in the points standings by winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix — it's the reigning champ's fifth victory of the season — after yet another Leclerc early retirement.
Leclerc started from pole position, immediately lost the lead in the first corner to Sergio Pérez, Verstappen's Red Bull teammate, then used smart strategy to cycle his Ferrari back to the front. Leclerc regained the lead when he pitted under virtual safety car speed restrictions while the two Red Bull cars stayed out.
Leclerc seemed poised to challenge for the win, but the Monaco driver's car started spewing smoke on lap 20 of 51 and he had to pull into the pits, with the diagnosis an engine failure. It was his second retirement in three races, and the day was doubly bad for the team as Carlos Sainz Jr. also failed to finish.
Verstappen had passed Pérez shortly before Leclerc's failure. Red Bull has won five consecutive races, and although Leclerc has two wins this year, his most recent victory was in early April and he hasn't finished in the top three since early May.
Red Bull went 1-2 in the race with Pérez finishing second, while Mercedes was third and fourth with George Russell and seven-time series champ Lewis Hamilton.
The series resumes next Sunday with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
Le Mans: Toyota again
LE MANS, France — Toyota won the 24 Hours Le Mans for the fifth straight time, with the No. 8 car finishing ahead of the No. 7 in another dominant performance.
New Zealand's Brendan Hartley had clinched pole position for the classic endurance race and was at the wheel as Toyota Gazoo's No. 8 completed the event in sunny and warm conditions, with teammates Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland and Ryo Hirakawa of Japan watching from the team garage.
Buemi has won the race four times while Hartley clinched his third win, with this his second for Toyota after his first victory with Porsche in 2017. Hirakawa secured his first victory to join countrymen Kazuki Nakajima and Kamui Kobayashi as winners in the famed race first held in 1923.
Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina followed a couple of minutes behind for Toyota's No. 7 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in northwestern France. He was joined by Kobayashi and British driver Mike Conway, his teammates when No. 7 won last year to underline how Toyota has broken the stranglehold of Audi and Porsche.