The NASCAR Cup Series headed to California on Sunday, June 6, for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. The wine country road course tested their skills and ability to avoid incidents but still damaged some vehicles. However, Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson put on another dominant show and raced his way to Victory Lane once again.
The race featured Larson at the front of the pack for the majority of laps. However, multiple late wrecks brought out caution flags and forced restarts. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had to continue making moves to stay ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott and reach Victory Lane in overtime, but he achieved his goal and locked up even more playoff points in the process.
Larson is now the second driver to win three races during the 2021 season, joining Truex on the esteemed list. The HMS driver remains the championship favorite after winning the most stages and leading the most laps in 2021. Though he will have to contend with Elliott, the defending Cup Series champion who finished second at Sonoma.
Larson Continued a Dominant Season in the No. 5
There were several drivers listed as top options to take the checkered flag ahead of Sunday’s race at Sonoma. Truex and Elliott were among this group due to their considerable skills on road courses. Similarly, Larson was one of the favorites due to his strong runs at nearly every track on the 2021 NASCAR schedule.
Larson showcased his skills early and often on Sunday. He won the first two stages of the race while posting the fastest lap time (99.491). These were his 10th and 11th stage wins of the season, the most in the Cup Series. He also recovered from a surprising turn of events that dropped him out of the top spot.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver took the No. 5 down pit road on lap 63 to fuel up for the final run to the finish line. Truex took advantage of the stop and turned in a faster pit time, opening up the door for him to take the lead. Larson dropped clear to fifth place, but he quickly drove his way back to the front of the pack, passing Truex and Kyle Busch among others.
A Late Incident Ruined the Day for Multiple Contenders
Sonoma Raceway has one particular turn, 11, that is a dangerous hairpin. If drivers do not approach this part of the track correctly, they can ruin their day or those of other drivers. A fitting example is a late-race wreck that brought out the caution flag and sent William Byron to the garage.
The incident occurred with fewer than 15 laps remaining in the race. Corey LaJoie took the turn tight and collided with the side of Ross Chastain’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. The two race cars quickly slowed as Kevin Harvick slammed into the back of Chastain, destroying the front of his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang.
Several other vehicles suffered damage during the incident, including those belonging to Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Erik Jones was in the middle of the incident as well, but his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro barely suffered any damage.
While the incident ruined opportunities for Byron and Harvick among others, it did create an entertaining moment featuring race fans in California. The No. 4 pit crew cut up Harvick’s destroyed hood and distributed it to many of those in attendance.
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