Daniel Suarez is a NASCAR Cup Series race winner, but he hasn’t necessarily clinched his first career playoff berth quite yet.
In his 195th career NASCAR Cup Series start over the course of six seasons, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez became a race winner, taking the checkered flag to win Sunday afternoon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
The 30-year-old Monterrey native led 47 laps en route to his victory in this 110-lap race around the 12-turn, 1.99-mile (3.203-kilometer) natural terrain road course in Sonoma, California, which made him the first Mexican-born driver to win a Cup Series race.
It also made him just the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Cup Series race, joining Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) Earl Ross (Canada) and Mario Andretti (Italy).
What it didn’t necessarily do, however, was lock him into the 2022 playoffs.
Suarez is the 12th different winner in 16 races this season. While the playoff format is often considered a “win an in” format, there are still 10 regular season races remaining, and no matter how many winners there are, there are just 16 playoff spots.
The regular season points champion qualifies for the playoffs, alongside the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.
There can be no more than 13 two-race winners in the regular season, so the four drivers who have won twice this year (Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, and Team Penske’s Joey Logano) are locked in.
In the event that there are more than 16 winners, the tiebreaker among single-race winners to determine who lands the remaining open playoff spots becomes point standings.
Suarez currently sits in 17th place in the point standings, which is good for sixth among the eight single-race winners (four points ahead of Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric and seven points ahead of 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch).
So if there do end up being more than 16 winners, Suarez is one of the drivers who would need to be especially careful that he is in a good enough position in the point standings to avoid being left on the outside looking in.
Of course, the simplest way to avoid this predicament is to win again. And he is fully capable of doing that.
This coming weekend is the lone off weekend of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. After that, NBC is set to take over the weekly broadcasting duties from Fox, beginning with the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26 at 5:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV before that race begins!