Kyle Larson Continues His Win Streak at Sonoma Raceway

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Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA — June 6, 2021

It’s back to a road course for the NASCAR Cup Series drivers this weekend. The Save Mart 350 gives the road racing guys a chance to show off their driving skills. It is also another opportunity to add a new name to the 2021 winner’s list.

Sonoma Raceway, originally known as Infineon Raceway, has hosted 31 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on June 11, 1989. The first Cup race at Sonoma was won by Ricky Rudd who dominated the race leading 61 of the 74 scheduled laps.

Ford has eight all-time series wins at Sonoma by eight different drivers. Kevin Harvick(4) is the only active Ford driver with a Cup win at Sonoma.

Favorites

Chase Elliott(9) will be the favorite after his win at COTA earlier this year. The conversation about contenders will also include Kyle Larson(5), last week’s winner. Martin Truex Jr.(19), winner of the last two events at Sonoma Raceway, and Kyle Busch(18) a past winner at the track will likely be in the mix.

Harvick, Kurt Busch(1), and youngsters Tyler Reddick(8), as well as Ross Chastain(42), are all non-winners this year and could find themselves in victory lane at the end of the day.

Larson will start on the pole with Elliott on the front row beside him. The race around the 2.52-mile circuit consists of 90 laps with stages of 20/20/50 laps. There will be a competition caution after Lap 10 as no practice or qualifying was held at the track.

Stage 1

Kyle Larson started the race from the pole and just like his dominating win last week at Charlotte he quickly drove away from the rest of the field. Christopher Bell(20) pitted early with a loss of fuel pressure. His crew reset the onboard computer and he returned to the track, losing a lap in the process.

Several teams opted to pit for tires under the green prior to the competition caution. Rules prevent them from taking on fuel until the yellow is displayed, but a stop for fuel only will be much quicker if no tire changes are involved. With the 1st Stage only 20 laps, fuel is not a critical issue.

Larson, Elliott, William Byron(24), Kyle Busch, and Truex lead the field back to green.

Byron pitted just before the pits were closed with 2 laps to go in the Stage. Crew chiefs are looking for any advantage they can manufacture on pit strategy and track position.

Larson wins his 5th consecutive and 6th of the last 8 Stages that have been run in the Cup Series. That’s what you call being on a roll.

Kyle Larson / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 5 Kyle Larson 10
2 9 Chase Elliott 9
3 18 Kyle Busch 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 48 Alex Bowman 6
6 3 Austin Dillon 5
7 8 Tyler Reddick 4
8 1 Kurt Busch 3
9 21 Matt DiBenedetto* 2
10 43 Erik Jones 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

While the leaders pitted, 14 cars stayed on the track for the start of Stage 2. Kurt Busch inherited the lead, Matt DiBenedetto(21), Brad Keselowski(2), Denny Hamlin(11), and Ryan Blaney(12) are the new Top 5.

It only took two laps for Elliott and Larson to return to the Top 10 with the advantage of new tires. However, that extra grip will equalize as the laps mount up. William Byron, who pitted early before the end of Stage 1, drove to the lead. Larson moved to 2nd with 11 to go in the Stage.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) hit the wall when he had a tire go down just past the halfway point of Stage 2. The caution flag waved and teams will now have to decide how they will handle stops. Pitting at this point would allow a car to make it to the end with one more stop for fuel. But, tires are a factor to consider as some teams will surely choose to pit at the end of the Stage.

Larson and Truex were two of the 18 drivers who stayed on the track as the race restarted with 6 laps to go to the green and white checkered flag. Kurt Busch, who was the first out of the pits of those drivers that choose to come in on the caution, moved into the Top 5 with 2 laps to go.

Truex pits just before pit road is closed with 2 laps to go. Larson stays out and notches another Stage win. Who made the correct decision? With 50 laps to go, another pit stop will be required before the end of the race.

Christopher Bell, who was a lap down early, worked his way through the field to finish in 10th and earn a Stage point.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 5 Kyle Larson 10
2 22 Joey Logano* 9
3 48 Alex Bowman 8
4 1 Kurt Busch 7
5 9 Chase Elliott 6
6 24 William Byron 5
7 18 Kyle Busch 4
8 2 Brad Keselowski* 3
9 11 Denny Hamlin 2
10 20 Christopher Bell 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Kurt Busch and Elliott, the leaders of the off-cycle strategy drivers, led the race back to green. Larson was mired in mid-pack after pitting on the normal sequence. Elliott went to the front as Larson worked his way into the Top 5.

Chase Elliott at Sonoma / NASCAR Photo

With 38 laps to go, Larson was in 2nd trailing Elliott by 4.5 seconds. Pit sequence strategy is likely to go out the window at this point, expect the leaders to all pit at once so no one has a tire advantage for a bunch of laps.

Larson passed for the lead with 33 laps to go, Truex ran in 3rd, Erik Jones(43) in 4th, and Joey Logano rounding out the Top 5. Leaders began pitting with 30 laps to go. Larson pitted with 26 laps to go. However, the right front tire of Larson’s car was worn to the steel belts on the outer edge.

After just 6 laps on fresh tires, Larson was back out front with 22 to go. Truex ran 2nd, but did not appear to have the horsepower to stay up with the #5 car. Quinn Houff(00) stalled on the course when his engine expired with 19 laps to go and the caution came out.

Closing Laps

Almost the entire field came to pit road during the yellow flag period for fresh tires and fuel. Logano, Reddick, Corey LaJoie(7), and Anthony Alfredo(38) stayed on the track. Larson, the fastest of pit road, restarts in 5th with 16 laps to go. A lap later, Larson was back out front.

Kevin Harvick, LaJoie, Byron, and Chastain all got tangled up in Turn 1 as the race went back under caution with 14 laps to go. Bowman, Jones and Bell were also involved to a lesser extent. Crews were only allowed 6 sets of tires for the race, so pit stops are unlikely unless it is necessary to repair damage. Byron was forced to retire with damage to the radiator, Harvick’s car had to have the hood and right front fender removed but he was able to continue.

Back to green flag racing with 11 laps to go, Larson pulled away followed by Logano, Elliott, Truex, and Reddick.

Ryan Preece(37) and Cody Ware(51) got together with 5 laps to go and the field was put under caution once again. Setting up a sprint to the finish line with 3 laps to go at the resumption of racing. Before the field could complete a lap, Alfredo spun costing him a possible Top 10 finish and bringing out the 8th caution of the day.

The Finish

After 90 tough laps it will take NASCAR Overtime to settle things at Sonoma. Will sparks fly between teammates on the front row? Larson escapes to gap Elliott and Chase puts space between himself and Truex in 3rd.

Larson holds on for the win, sweeping all the Stages as he did at Charlotte.

Kyle Larson wins at Sonoma / NASCAR Photo

Playoff Standings

With his 3rd win on the season Kyle Larson moves ahead of Martin Truex Jr by 77 points in the ranking of 2021 winners. Larson still trails season points leader, Denny Hamlin, by 65 points.

We have narrowed our rankings to the Top 25 drivers. Cole Custer and Aric Almirola, both playoff drivers in 2020, have dropped from our published list.

Rank Driver POINTS Status
1 Kyle Larson 597 In Win(3)
2 Martin Truex Jr. 520 In Win(3)
3 Alex Bowman 433 In Win(2)
4 Chase Elliott 576 In Win
5 William Byron 559 In Win
6 Joey Logano 539* In Win
7 Ryan Blaney 509* In Win
8 Kyle Busch 508 In Win
9 Brad Keselowski 470* In Win
10 Christopher Bell 363 In Win
11 Michael McDowell 355* In Win
12 Denny Hamlin 662 +332
13 Kevin Harvick 483* +154
14 Austin Dillon 431 +102
15 Tyler Reddick 394 +65
16 Chris Buescher 391* +52
NASCAR Playoffs Cut Line
17 Matt DiBenedetto 329* -52
18 Kurt Busch 318 -63
19 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 309 -72
20 Ross Chastain 307 -84
21 Bubba Wallace 298 -97
22 Daniel Suarez 293 -98
23 Ryan Newman 287* -104
24 Ryan Preece 281 -110
T25 Chase Briscoe 271* -120
T25 Erik Jones 271 -120

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Save Mart 300 from Sonoma Raceway

Position Car Driver Interval Laps
1 5 Kyle Larson 92
2 9 Chase Elliott 0.614 92
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1.869 92
4 22 Joey Logano 2.637 92
5 18 Kyle Busch 3.474 92
6 1 Kurt Busch 4.838 92
7 42 Ross Chastain 5.558 92
8 11 Denny Hamlin 6.896 92
9 48 Alex Bowman 7.495 92
10 12 Ryan Blaney 8.389 92
11 43 Erik Jones 8.904 92
12 99 Daniel Suarez 9.637 92
13 3 Austin Dillon 10.432 92
14 23 Bubba Wallace 10.757 92
15 2 Brad Keselowski 10.917 92
16 17 Chris Buescher 11.169 92
17 14 Chase Briscoe 11.619 92
18 7 Corey LaJoie 11.789 92
19 8 Tyler Reddick 12.315 92
20 41 Cole Custer 13.808 92
21 37 Ryan Preece 14.064 92
22 4 Kevin Harvick 14.152 92
23 21 Matt DiBenedetto 14.384 92
24 20 Christopher Bell 15.063 92
25 15 James Davison 15.272 92
26 78 Scott Heckert 15.605 92
27 10 Aric Almirola 16.530 92
28 34 Michael McDowell 16.949 92
29 52 Josh Bilicki 17.863 92
30 77 Ben Rhodes 18.001 92
31 38 Anthony Alfredo 18.290 92
32 53 Garrett Smithley 20.125 92
33 6 Ryan Newman 24.040 92
34 51 Cody Ware -8 84
35 24 William Byron -16 76
36 0 Quin Houff -23 69
37 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -52 40