The NASCAR Cup Series drivers will return to Sonoma on Sunday, June 6, for the first time since 2019 and test their road course skills. Hendrick Motorsports drivers will have an early advantage after NASCAR released the starting order. Kyle Larson will lead the field as the Busch Pole winner after capturing the Coca-Cola 600.
When Larson leads the field to green, a familiar face will line up next to him. Teammate Chase Elliott will start on the first row while another HMS driver, William Byron, lines up on the second row next to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin. Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon make up the third row while the fourth HMS driver, Alex Bowman, joins Kevin Harvick on the fourth row.
Unlike the past two races, the drivers did not take part in practice or qualifying sessions prior to the Sonoma race. Instead, NASCAR determined the starting order with its unique formula. The fastest lap from the previous race makes up 15%, the driver’s finishing position makes up 25%, the team owner’s finishing position makes up another 25%, and the team owner’s points ranking makes up the final 35%.
A Road Course Expert Holds the Best Odds at Sonoma
While Larson has the second-most wins in 2021 and the most laps led, he does not have the best odds for Sunday’s race at Sonoma. Instead, that honor belongs to Elliott. The six-time road course winner faces 9-4 odds to win the race, per NASCAR. Martin Truex Jr., a three-time winner at Sonoma, has the second-best odds at 9-2.
Larson isn’t the favorite, but he is near the top of the list. He faces 6-1 odds, which are the third-best in the Cup Series. Busch is fourth with 8-1 odds while Hamlin rounds out the top-five with 10-1 odds. Busch has two previous wins at Sonoma while Larson, Hamlin, and Elliott all seek their first trip to Victory Lane at the California road course.
Harvick, the winner of the 2017 race at Sonoma, will enter the weekend with decent odds overall at 18-1. He is just behind Hamlin and Byron (15-1). The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang has not reached Victory Lane in 2021 after winning nine races in 2020, but the trip to Sonoma will serve as a potential “get-right” race. Harvick has 19 starts at the California track and 10 top-10 finishes, six top-fives, and his win.
Playoff Hopefuls Start in the Top-Half of the Field
With the starting lineup formula making its return for the trip to Sonoma, there are several championship contenders near the front of the pack. Several winless drivers with playoff hopes will also join them in the front half of the field. The list includes Chris Buescher, who is 14th in points. The Roush Fenway Racing driver will start on the sixth row next to Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney.
Joining Buescher near the front of the pack are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (row seven), Daniel Suarez (row eight), Bubba Wallace (row eight), and Tyler Reddick (row five). None of these drivers have wins, but they are all either above the cutoff line or within reach of a playoff spot.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon will have the best position out of the group after a sixth-place run in the Coca-Cola 600. The No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro will start the road course race on the third row while Dillon tries to move up the points standings. He currently sits in 11th after one top-five finish and six top-10s.
The NASCAR Cup Series drivers will try to make a push toward one of the few remaining playoff spots during the trip to Sonoma Raceway. The road course race will take place on Sunday, June 6, at 4 p.m. ET. FS1 will provide coverage with Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy, and Clint Bowyer in the booth to call the action.