Pole sitter Kyle Larson won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race at Sonoma Race in dominating fashion. He swept all three stages, and led 57 of the 90 laps. He only fell behind after pit stops but wasted no time in catching up and pulling away in his No.5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Each time Larsen pitted he fell back, and charged his way back up to the lead and stretched his gap. This was his first back-to-back race this season, his third victory this year, and his ninth career win. He now moves into second place for points with 617, behind Denny Hamlin who leads with 664. Larson’s teammate, Chase Elliot is in third place. Larsen, who hails from Elk Grove, CA first came to the track, then called Sears Point Raceway, at the age of five. He calls Sonoma his home track.
Elliott, who’s known as a good road racer, gave Larson a run for his money in the race, driving No.9 Napa Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr came in third, driving his No.19 Bass Pro Toyota. Fourth and fifth were Joey Logano in No.22 Autotrader Ford and Kyle Busch in No.18 Sport Clips Toyota.
There was a lot of good racing behind Larson in the first big pack, with passing and maneuvers, mostly clean. The Northern California racer said he’s been working on his restarts. One thing which has helped him this last week was the team hiring American road racer, Scott Speed to work with him. Larsen said it really helped, and he got better in outbreaking this weekend. He said he had to learn the track really quickly as there were some changes since he last raced here.
There were eight cautions for 18 laps, two coming in the last three laps, three within 18 laps of the finish. It seemed every time Larson got the lead and pulled away, another caution came to bunch of the field. Larson made some bold and daring passes when going for the lead after pit stops and was successful in fending off attempts to crowd or pass him in tight squeezes. The majority of problem-causing cautions came in Stage Three, involving multiple cars. Caution Six right after a Restart involved seven cars in Turn 11. William Byron went to the garage with severe body damage; Kevin Harvick pitted for removal of hood, fender and assorted parts – some of which were given to eager race fans hanging out by his pits. Corey LaJoie pitted for body work. Others were Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Erik Jones. Caution Seven involved a bobble by Michael McDowell, and three cars were caught out – Cody Ware, who was taken to the infield care center and released; Ryan Preece and Matt DeBenedetto. The last caution in Turn 4 involved Anthony Alfredo, Bell, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. The one incident in the first stage involved Ricky Stenhouse crashing in Turn One, bringing out the fork lift and assorted equipment.
Chase Briscoe, winner of Saturday’s ARCA race, was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race, driving No.14 Ford Performance School Ford. He started 25th and finished 17th, on the lead lap.
Other race stats: The race ran 3 hrs, 14 mins, 42 secs. There were thirteen lead changes among seven drivers: Kyle Larson 1-9; Denny Hamlin 10-11; Larson 12-21; Kurt Busch 22-27; William Byron 28-32; Larson 33-42; Kurt Busch 43-44; Chase Elliott 45-57; Larson 58-64; Joey Logano 65-66; Kyle Busch 67-68; Larson 69-72; Logano 73-75 and Larson 76-92. Thirty-three of the 37 starters finished the race, all on the lead lap. Two DNFs were accidents and two were mechanical. The average race speed varied from 70.430 mph to 89.755 mph.
This weekend’s Cup race is the last regular Cup race for Fox Sports. After next weekend’s non-points NASCAR Cup All Star race in Texas, the TV coverage will be done by NBC. For Sonoma the booth talent was Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy, who is also racing in the Historic Trans-Am. For the Pre-Race pit walk, Bowyer and Gordon were joined by host Chris Myers, to interview celebrities and guests. They had a good time among themselves, sometimes winding up each other and/or their guests.
During Pre-Race Ceremonies crews were making ready, warming up, putting things in place, and settling their driver. The rear tire changer on the No.52 Ford of Josh Bilicki is Brehanna Daniels, the first African American woman to work on a NASCAR Cup team. She was doing some high-stepping steps and prances to get ready for the race. She has been doing this since 2016, when she was recruited by the NASCAR Diversity program when they came to her college where she was playing basketball. NASCAR was impressed by her athletic ability and exceptional hand speed. She worked on ARCA and NASCAR Truck teams before moving up to Cup. Prior to being recruited, Daniels hadn’t followed NASCAR. When she’s not training for crew work, she’s a clothing entrepreneur, and been on TV. Maybe you’ve seen her in that Advil commercial showing her going over the wall.
Inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues. The No. 19 had one lug nut not safe and secure.
The next NASCAR Cup Series points race is Nashville Sunday 20 June 2021.