Kyle Larson in Victory Circle
Kyle Larson in Victory Circle. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Pole Sitter Kyle Larson No.42 Clorox Chevrolet won the Carneros 200 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway Saturday afternoon. He led almost every foot of the race, only temporarily losing the lead for one corner on Lap 51 of the 66-lap race after one of the several restarts. His margin of victory over runner-up Greg Pursley GPM/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford was 3.191 seconds. Larson turned the fastest race lap of 90.136 mph/.1:19.470.

So much for a driver who supposedly had trouble learning to shift in stock cars.

This was Larson’s first weekend ever driving the 1.199-mile elevated road course.

Larson stayed out in front and out of trouble, while there were mighty battles behind him, leaving some hapless victims beside the road. The tow truck driver did a yeoman’s job of pushing, pulling and lifting cars out of harms way.

Kyle Larson

Greg Pursley

Kyle Larson

Left to right: Kyle Larson, Greg Pursley, and Larsen leading Ricky Stenhouse Jr & Pursley. Photos by Mike & Jeff Burghardt.

Third through fifth were Dylan Lupton No.9 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. No.99 Roush Performance Parts Ford; and Brandon McReynolds No.16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.

Larson said “A little bit of confidence (from today’s race) helps going into tomorrow’s race. Pursley is really good here so it’s good to beat a driver like that. I gained experience in saving the equipment, and I gained some experience in parts of the track. Tomorrow will be more difficult. On those restarts, it seemed like it was hard until I could get up to Turn Seven when I could pull away.

“It was really good day today, being on pole and winning K&N, and awesome to qualify third in Cup. I didn’t think I was that good in Cup, and now I’m still not sure; but the cars are really good. You can make mistakes and still do well.”

Up until the break, the top three cars didn’t change position from where they started – Larson, Stenhouse and Pursley. Then, the action began and the yellows flew. Stenhouse was caught out, spun, shuffled backwards to tenth, and recovered. He charged back to finish fourth.

Justin Allgaier
Justin Allgaier. Photo by Mike & Jeff Burghardt

Cup driver, Justin Algaier No.83 Grigg Brothers/Brandt Chevrolet started thirteenth, and ran as high as sixth before mixing it up with others while racing hard in a pack. He fell back and ended up fourteenth.

Cup driver David Mayhew No.17 Steak and Grape/MMI Services Chevrolet didn’t have his best day. He started ninth but finished twenty-first. This won’t help his K&N points – he was second in the standings going into the race. Mayhew qualified Cup driver J.J.Yeley’s No.44 Phoenix Warehouse Chevrolet in thirty-ninth position for Sunday’s race, but Yeley will start at the back due to driver change. Yeley finished fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, after starting twenty-second. Even as we speak he’s winging his way back to the wine country of Northern California.

Cup Rookie Austin Dillon No.21 Golden Gate Meat/RCR Chevrolet started eighth, but ran afoul of electrical gremlins during the race and retired on Lap 49 for a P22 finish.

Jack Sellars
Jack Sellars. Photo by Mike & Jeff Burghardt

Larson wasn’t the only K&N driver running his first-ever race at Sonoma. Neither had Rookie James Bickford, the sixteen-year old cousin of Cup driver, Jeff Gordon No.24 Panasonic Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Bickford started tenth but ended up twenty-fourth. One thing different in the West version of the K&N Pro Series, versus the East coast version, is there are more smaller and independent teams out West, with a higher ratio of older, more veteran racers. Jack Sellars No.15 MediActive Oral Care Chevrolet has the most K&N starts – 279. Back East, the series has more better funded younger drivers and bigger teams. The West Series has been around 61 years and has long been a support race with the Cup Series.

Michael Annett No.31 TMC/Pilot Chevrolet ran the hardest. He started twenty-ninth and finished sixth.

Sellars took a big hit into the tire and concrete wall exiting Turn Seven, but was able to limp into the pits. This was the second incident which required wall care during the race.

Twenty of the twenty-nine starters finished the race, with sixteen on the lead lap. Three retired from crashes, and six for mechanical problems.

The race ran for 2 hrs 12 mins 28 secs. The average race speed was 59.490 mph.

There were five cautions for sixteen laps, all in the second half of the race. Cautions breed cautions. The K&N Series cars are Gen 4 Cup cars, same chassis but with different Goodyear tires. It is a developmental series with the aim of maximizing participation while keeping down the costs.

The series has a customary break half-way through its races. This allows the teams to do some work on their cars, but avoids having pit stops, which is a cost-cutting measure. The idea is to save the teams the expense of an over-the-wall crew and all its requisite equipment. During the break the teams cannot open the hood or rear deck and can’t change tires, unless a damaged or flat tire is verified by a NASCAR official. Otherwise, normal adjustments are allowed, such as spring settings and fueling.

After the brief break, the cars run two laps single file behind the pace car leading up to a double file restart.

Clorox Corporation, from nearby Oakland CA, cleaned up Saturday at Sonoma. It sponsor’s Larson’s K&N car and the Sprint Cup No.47 JTG Daughtery Racing Chevrolet of driver A.J. Allmendinger, who almost had the Cup pole until the last thirty seconds when he was bumped by Larson’s veteran teammate, Jamie McMurray No.1 Cessna Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Racing Chevrolet.

The next stop for the K&N Pro Series West is 12 July 2014 at State Line Speedway in Idaho.