NASCAR: Larson schools the NASCAR boys again

Proving that he could have made a great IndyCar driver, open wheel ace Kyle Larson dominated the Coco-Cola 600 last weekend, and this week he went to the road course of Sonoma Raceway, and gave the NASCAR drivers a driving lesson they won’t soon forget in winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup race in dominating style.

The victory was Larson’s first at the 2.52-mile road course, his third of the season and the ninth of his career. It was the fourth straight 1-2 finish for Hendrick Motorsports and the first time since 2014 that HMS has posted four-straight wins.

Larson won both stages and the race once again in beating his Hendrick Chevy teammate Chase Elliott and Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 06, 2021 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Joey Logano came home third in the #22 Penske Ford while Kyle Busch rounded out the top-5 in the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

More importantly in Larson’s mind, he buried the Chip Ganassi drivers, the man who fired him for a heat of the moment racial slur, making each win extra special.

“It was not easy,” said Larson. “Any road course isn’t easy, just trying to keep it on track is tough; especially when you’ve got two of the best behind you on the last restart, Chase (Elliott) and Martin (Truex, Jr.). I felt like I did a good job at the one before and stretched it out a little bit and didn’t want to give him another try at it, but he kept the pressure on. Martin was strong too, but what a car.

“This Chevy, thank you Mr. Hendrick. The is unbelievable. I thought I would be okay today, but I just didn’t know how I would race. I don’t think of us really do with no practice. But our car was really good there and I can’t say enough about it.”

What Does It Mean To Win In Front Of Your Hometown Fans?

“Yeah, it means a lot. Northern California will always be home to me, even if I live way out on the East Coast now. Thanks to all the fans for coming out. I know there’s a lot of Sprint Car fans in the stands and around this racetrack. I got to see a lot of my friends here today.  I’ve got my family here. This is unbelievable.

Kyle Larson

“And to get back-to-back wins in the Cup Series is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and to get it done feels great. To win last week on Memorial Day weekend, four in a row now, if you count my dirt racing too. And we’ve got a big week of racing coming up. I look forward to all that and just look forward to keeping the streak going.”

There were many accidents as the NASCAR drivers were crashing left and right.

One  driver was William Byron who was sidelined by damage sustained in an accident on lap 76.

“I was trying to roll the outside of the No. 43 (Erik Jones) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) was in front of me. I thought he was going to run the bottom and obviously somebody spun in front of him and caused a big pileup. At that point, you’re just a passenger. You’re obviously going to knock the radiator in and be done for the day.”

“It stinks, but we were struggling all day to be honest. So, we have to go back and work on that. Definitely learned some lessons. Thanks to Axalta, Chevrolet and everyone. We’ll re-group. It was really the first bad weekend of the year, so we’ll re-group from it.”

It was Hendrick Motorsports 7th win of the year and 270 total.

Elliott, the reigning series champion, achieved his best finish at Sonoma, but couldn’t find a way past his teammate.

“I wish I knew (where Larson was stronger),” said Elliott, who has six road course wins to his credit. “I would have tried to give him a little better run. But congrats to Kyle and (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) and everybody on the 5 team. They’ve been doing an amazing job.

“I’m really proud of our NAPA group, though. I felt like we were a lot better there at the end than we were at the beginning. That’s definitely the best I’ve ever been here at Sonoma.”

Truex came home third, followed by Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, who summed up Larson’s dominance in one sentience.

“The 5 was just out of this world,” Busch said.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain were sixth and seventh, respectively. Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.

Racing Results

1 5 Kyle Larson Chevy 92
2 9 Chase Elliott Chevy 0.614 92
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 1.869 92
4 22 Joey Logano Ford 2.637 92
5 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 3.474 92
6 1 Kurt Busch Chevy 4.838 92
7 42 Ross Chastain Chevy 5.558 92
8 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 6.896 92
9 48 Alex Bowman Chevy 7.495 92
10 12 Ryan Blaney Ford 8.389 92
11 43 Erik Jones Chevy 8.904 92
12 99 Daniel Suarez Chevy 9.637 92
13 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 10.432 92
14 23 Bubba Wallace Toyota 10.757 92
15 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 10.917 92
16 17 Chris Buescher Ford 11.169 92
17 14 Chase Briscoe # Ford 11.619 92
18 7 Corey LaJoie Chevy 11.789 92
19 8 Tyler Reddick Chevy 12.315 92
20 41 Cole Custer Ford 13.808 92
21 37 * Ryan Preece Chevy 14.064 92
22 4 Kevin Harvick Ford 14.152 92
23 21 Matt DiBenedetto Ford 14.384 92
24 20 Christopher Bell Toyota 15.063 92
25 15 James Davison Chevy 15.272 92
26 78 Scott Heckert Ford 15.605 92
27 10 Aric Almirola 16.530 92
28 34 Michael McDowell Ford 16.949 92
29 52 Josh Bilicki Ford 17.863 92
30 77 Ben Rhodes(i) Ford 18.001 92
31 38 Anthony Alfredo # Ford 18.290 92
32 53 Garrett Smithley(i) Ford 20.125 92
33 6 Ryan Newman Ford 24.040 92
34 51 Cody Ware(i) Chevy -8 84
35 24 William Byron Chevy -16 76
36 00 Quin Houff Chevy -23 69
37 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chevy -52 40

# Denotes Rookie
(i) Not Eligible For Points
(*) Required To Qualify On Time

Average Speed of Race Winner:  71.445 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 14 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .614 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 18 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-9;D. Hamlin 10-11;K. Larson 12-21;K. Busch 22-27;W. Byron 28-32;K.

Larson 33-42;K. Busch 43-44;C. Elliott 45-57;K. Larson 58-64;J. Logano 65-66;K. Busch 67-68;K.

Larson 69-72;J. Logano 73-75;K. Larson 76-92.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 6 times for 57 laps; Chase Elliott 1

time for 13 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 8 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 5 laps; William Byron 1

time for 5 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,9,18,19,48,3,8,1,21,43

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,22,48,1,9,24,18,2,11,20

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