NASCAR: Sonoma race should end a ridiculous rumor

Daniel Suarez, Stewart-Haas Racing, Sonoma, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Daniel Suarez, Stewart-Haas Racing, Sonoma, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

There never should have been any doubt about Daniel Suarez’s future with Trackhouse Racing Team beyond the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.

NASCAR Cup Series silly season has been heating up over the last few months, as is the case every year around this time.

Much of the focus has been on Joe Gibbs Racing as of late, with Martin Truex Jr. contemplating retirement and Kyle Busch seeking primary sponsorship to replace M&M’s after the 2022 season.

But there were questions starting to be asked about a former Joe Gibbs Racing driver. What would Justin Marks do about the #99 Chevrolet if Daniel Suarez couldn’t win?

Marks founded Trackhouse Racing Team in October 2020, and after adding Pitbull as a co-owner, they made their debut in the 2021 season with Suarez as a one-car team.

Suarez finished the season in 25th place in the championship standings with just four top 10 finishes, but the team made a huge move to set themselves up for 2022 success when they acquired Chip Ganassi Racing, a move that nobody — not even Chip Ganassi — saw coming.

But once presented with the vision Marks had for the organization, Ganassi agreed to the deal, which saw Trackhouse Racing Team expand to a two-car operation for 2022.

Marks signed then-Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ross Chastain to drive the second car, the #1 Chevrolet, alongside Suarez.

While Suarez had still been searching for his first top three finish with the team after 51 starts, Chastain had six in his first 11 races behind the wheel of the #1 Chevrolet, including the first two wins of his career at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega Superspeedway.

However, it was no secret that Suarez had actually been running well, and on paper, Trackhouse Racing Team had no reason to let him go after just two seasons. We also can’t neglect to mention the obvious cultural fit with the up-and-coming organization.

From the season’s sixth race at Circuit of the Americas to the season’s 15th race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Suarez had led 143 laps. On its own, that total from 10 races was just 23 laps shy of his career-high for an entire 36-race season.

Yet his top finish during that span was only a 10th place effort at Darlington Raceway, a finish which, in the season’s first five races, he had been able to top on three occasions, including with two fourth place results.

He had shown good speed consistently throughout his second season with Trackhouse Racing Team. He simply hadn’t had things go his way to the point of reaching victory lane, and even on some of his stronger days, he was bitten by misfortune at the worst possible times.

But results matter, and the 30-year-old Mexican simply hadn’t been able to execute an entire race to perfection and translate that into a win.

When you consider the fact that he had previously gone winless in 108 starts with two four-car powerhouse teams in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing and did not qualify for the playoffs in any of his three seasons with those organizations, a continued lack of execution was understandably a bit concerning.

Believe it or not, Busch’s name had even been mentioned as a longshot possibility for Trackhouse Racing Team in the event that sponsorship couldn’t be found for his #18 Toyota.

But on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, however, everything came together for Suarez, who found victory lane for the first time in his six seasons at NASCAR’s top level.

He finally broke through, and he did so relatively comfortably, especially when you consider all of the late passes for the lead that the Gen 7 era has already produced in 2022. He won the race by 3.849 seconds over RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher in second place.

Aside from three laps during the final pit sequence, Suarez led the entire final stage of the 110-lap race around the 12-turn, 1.99-mile (3.203-kilometer) natural terrain road course in Sonoma, California. He ended the race having led a race-high 47 laps, which brought his season laps led total to a new career-high of 203.

Next. Daniel Suarez didn't clinch a playoff berth. dark

And while not confirmed by the team, it’s safe to say that any rumor of Daniel Suarez potentially being replaced behind the wheel of the #99 Chevrolet for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season can be trashed. He is here to stay, and for good reason.