Suarez took the lead in Sunday’s race at California’s Sonoma Raceway road course with 22 of 110 laps remaining and cruised to victory over Chris Buescher, earning his first victory in 195 career starts. He became the first Mexican driver to win in the Cup Series since its inception in 1949.
His NASCAR career had seemed be on a fast track, proving among the first success stories to come out of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and he went on to win the 2016 Xfinity championship with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Just as Suarez was about to embark on a second season in Xfinity, Carl Edwards abruptly left NASCAR, leaving JGR with a Cup ride to fill for the 2017 season. The organization turned to Suarez as Edwards’ replacement.
Although there were plenty of flashes of potential, Suarez never seemed to find the same success in Cup at JGR, Stewart-Haas Racing or Gaunt Brothers Racing.
A little over a year working with his newest team, Trackhouse Racing, Suarez finally broke his duck this season with the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned squad.
“You know, it has cost me a lot to get to this point. A lot of people don’t know that, but it has cost me a lot to get to this country first 10 years ago, and to get to this point, fighting,” Suarez said. “I come from a very humble family. Every step of my life has cost me a lot.
“I knew that it’s important to remember that if I was able to come all the way here, I wasn’t going to give up here. My confidence was high.
“But obviously knowing that you haven’t won yet, there is a little bit of doubt. But I knew that I was fast. I knew that I could race with them, with the guys that are winning. But I hadn’t showed that first victory.”
Although a new team, Trackhouse Racing had shown to be competitive since its debut last season.
Even with the introduction of the Next Gen car this year, the team still has been among the most consistently fast week-in and week-out.
The organisation picked up its first wins earlier this season with two trips to Victory Lane by Suarez’s teammate, Ross Chastain.
While Suarez’s No. 99 team seemed to hit multiple roadblocks on the way to a win, he said he still knew he was with a team capable of producing wins.
“I told my team, you know, the last five weeks we have had very fast race cars, but things happen. The jack broke last week. In Charlotte we were the fastest car and we were missing something on pit road every single time,” he said.
“But at the end my team, everyone, we stayed together. We keep pushing. I told them that bad luck doesn’t last forever, and tough people do. We kept working very hard and here we are.”
“[Sunday] was amazing. We did a lot of things right. But we believed that our car could have been a little bit better.
“So, when you look at the big picture and always try to see yourself as what I could have done better or different, that’s when you become a great team. I feel like we’re on our way there.”