NASCAR Sonoma Raceway: Larson survives chaos, wins at Sonoma

The wine is just fine at the Sonoma Raceway where Kyle Larson celebrates the NASCAR Cup Series auto race in Sonoma Sun Jun 6, 2021 (AP News photo)

Larson survives chaos, wins at Sonoma

By Tom Zulewski

SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson had a car that was untouchable as it zoomed around the Sonoma Raceway road course June 6. Several late restarts gave his challengers slivers of hope they could catch and pass him for the win.

With additional energy from his hometown crowd, Larson pulled through and continued to build on an increasingly successful 2021 season.

Larson survived a two-lap shootout, swept all three stages and took the checkered flag to win the Toyota/SaveMart 350. The Hendrick Motorsports driver won for the second straight week, earned his third win of the season, and gave team owner Rick Hendrick the company’s 270th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1984.

A native of nearby Elk Grove, Larson had his toughest competition from Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott, who led for 13 laps and finished second.

“Stretching out from Chase and slowing down helped me learn the track,” said Larson, who tied Martin Truex Jr. for most wins on the 2021 season. “The car was unbelievable, and now we have some wins to show for it.”

Cycling through pit stops pushed Larson back at times during the race, but it didn’t take long for the No. 5 car to make up the deficit, no matter who was up front among seven different drivers. Crew chief Cliff Daniels was surprised at how good the car was, especially during the three late-race restarts.

“I didn’t expect to see us make up ground that quick,” Daniels said. “Kyle nailed all three restarts perfectly.”

Larson’s win pulled him within 47 points of leader Denny Hamlin, who finished eighth at Sonoma.

“I’ve had a few good weeks, won stages, and took some huge chunks off the deficit,” Larson said. “Just keep gaining stage points, run up front and be smooth.”

Facing his teammate in Elliott, it clearly wasn’t easy for Larson to finish the job, especially with the race extended to two overtime laps.

“I was hoping to get a better launch so I was clear into Turn 2, but lost a bit of front grip,” Larson said. “I couldn’t get to the gas as soon as I needed to, so Chase was able to stay close. I got better outbraking him into the corners, so I could pass pretty easily.”

With the sweep at Sonoma, Larson extended his Cup-best stage win total to 11, well out in front in the series. Martin Truex Jr., who was looking for a third straight win at Sonoma, finished third, Joey Logano finished fourth and Kyle Busch completed the top five.

The race was slowed by cautions eight times for 18 laps, and the winning average speed was 71.445 mph.

Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Larson drives his career off the road with racial slur; High school graduates might play overseas; plus more

cnn.com file photo: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson who was fired from his sponsors and supporters admitted as much that his career in NASCAR is pretty much over after using the N word in a irace car conference call on Tuesday morning

On Headline Sports with Barbara:

#1 How could race car driver Kyle Larson of Japanese decent say the N word during a iracecar conference call on Tuesday with a good number of the race car driver community listening in to the live call? Needless to say Larson admitted himself that his career is toast after being suspended from race car driving.

#2 Many high school graduates lost their dream going to a big college division one school as the school season is shut down. They lost the senior year celebration, the prom, and the chance at their first year in college basketball. Some may choose now to play over seas instead of college.

#3 Barbara as you know this time of the year the NHL and the NBA are in the playoffs and post season but it looks like it won’t happen and if it does there is talk it could take place as late as July or August.

#4 MLB whose thinking about a two league, three division system played in two different states Florida and Arizona. Will a format like this work in an abbreviated schedule and will there be much fan interest?

#5 Easter celebration took a toll on the players and fans and their kids with all the shut downs and non traditional ways to celebrate the holiday. But none the less the purpose of it all is to stay safe.

Barbara does Headline Sports each Tuesday night at http://www.sportsradioservice.com