No Whining in Wine Country for Kyle Larson

Altogether, Kyle Larson continues his hot streak with a Sonoma win. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Altogether, Kyle Larson continues his hot streak with a Sonoma win. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

The hometown kid has finally done it. Elk Grove’s own Kyle Larson dominated Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, leading 57 of 92 laps.

As strong of a performance it was, Kyle Larson really had his work cut out for. Ranging from pit strategy to late-race mayhem, Larson was still able to score his victory of 2021. In addition of Larson leading the Cup parade in race wins, Hendrick Motorsports have won the last four straight races.

After doing a couple burnouts in front of his home crowd, Kyle Larson admitted it wasn’t an easy victory. He had to fend off the likes of teammate Chase Elliott and three-time Sonoma winner Martin Truex, Jr.

“Any road course isn’t easy, just trying to keep it on track is tough,” said Larson. “Especially when you’ve got two of the best behind you on the last restart. 

“I felt like I did a good job at the one before and stretched it out a little bit. Didn’t want to give him another try at it, but he kept the pressure on. Martin was strong too, but what a car. 

“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.”

Most certainly, momentum is on Larson and Hendrick’s side going into the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. For now, as the fans chant Larson’s name, it’s a performance the No. 5 team won’t forget anytime soon.

Podium Reflection:
Cliff Daniels
Overall, Cliff Daniels, Larson's crew chief, enjoyed another win in 2021. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Overall, Cliff Daniels, Larson’s crew chief, enjoyed another win in 2021. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Momentum is running high for Larson’s crew chief. It’s the first time both have worked together prepping for Sonoma. Worth noting that with last week being Memorial Day weekend, the turnaround had to be quick.

Following Sunday’s victory, hard work certainly paid off in Daniels’ eyes.

“It’s been a special week for sure. After the Coke 600, that was quite a race,” said Daniels. “It’s hard to even believe that the race played out then the way it did. Our car stayed up front the whole time.

“This week we were a little tired on Monday and Tuesday. I’m so thankful and proud of the guys back at the shop because we let opportunities like that. We let moments like that create opportunities for us to get rejuvenated and go work hard. 

“Our guys put in a lot of long hours, the whole shop did. To try to get these cars ready to come out west. The trucks had to leave early this week.

“Tuesday was a long day. Wednesday was a really long day. The guys were just ready to grind it out. It takes all of that prep and focus to get us back here. Very, very thankful.”

In spite of another runner up, Chase Elliott continued his consistent ways. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

In spite of another runner up, Chase Elliott continued his consistent ways. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Sonoma Raceway remain an elusive track for the reigning Cup Series champion. As hard as Elliott performed, it just wasn’t enough to get another road course victory. Thus, back to the drawing board for the No. 9 team.

“I would have tried to give him a little better run,” said Elliott. “But congratulations to Kyle, Cliff, and everybody on the No. 5 team. They’ve been doing an amazing job.”

Elliott was still proud of his team’s effort, knowing they’ll leave California with good stride.

“We’re a lot better there at the end than we were at the beginning,” Elliott commented. “Definitely the best I’ve ever been here, I feel like, at Sonoma, in particular. I’m pleased with that. I wish we could have gotten another spot, but we’ll try again.”

Truex Jr.
Consequently, Martin Truex Jr's Sonoma streak ended but with a podium. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Consequently, Martin Truex Jr’s Sonoma streak ended but with a podium. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

The defending race winner had one of the strongest cars during the opening two stages. Muscling his way through the field but couldn’t claim the top spot this time. Therefore, Jeff Gordon’s Sonoma three-peat remains as is – alone.

To make matters worse for Truex, the late cautions hurt the No. 19 team as much as benefitting them.

“I didn’t have the short-run speed,” said Truex. “The really long runs were really our only chance there. All of those cautions at the end killed any chance we had.”

Tame At One Point

Sunday’s opening two stages really went without any drama. In fact, the only caution for an accident between Laps 1-77 was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. crashing in Turn 1. He got the car rolling, but the right side of his No. 47 Sunny D Chevrolet was destroyed.

Despite keeping the car running, Stenhouse would ultimately be one of only four retirees. It was game over when the engine let go and only completed 40 laps.

The next caution that didn’t pertain to competition or stage ending runs was on Lap 72. That’s when Quin Houff’s rear gear went awry, resulting his No. 00 Chevrolet stopping in Turn 6.

Turn 11 Calamity

Due to Houff’s day ending early, the race suddenly turned into an unordinary Sonoma Cup race. In recent years, late-race cautions haven’t been a concern towards the competition. This wasn’t one of those typical Sonoma races fans have been used to.

Chaos transpired on Lap 77 when a bump gone wrong collected multiple drivers. Ross Chastain was trying to thread the needle on Corey LaJoie, but it caused an accordion effect. Top contenders such as William Byron and Kevin Harvick were collected and sustained significant damage.

For Byron, it was the end of days which have become rare for the No. 24 team. He explained that he was trying to roll the outside of Erik Jones, but Harvick was in front of him. If he’d go to the bottom lane in Turn 11.

“Obviously, somebody spun in front of him and caused a big pileup,” said Byron. “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.”

Closing Laps
Finally, Kyle Larson earns a home state win at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Finally, Kyle Larson earns a home state win at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Two more cautions would follow with the latter sending the 90-lap race into overtime. But the madness wouldn’t end there as a last-lap fender bender really made Turn 11 more chaotic.

Coming towards the checkered flag, Daniel Suarez ran into the back of Michael McDowell. Unlike the one involving Harvick and Byron, everyone was able to get through alright for the most part. Just a lot of work in the body shop for a several drivers. Not ideal for the teams, thus leaving Sonoma unhappy.

On the other hand, Kyle Larson was elated. After leading the field to the green flag four times, he’ll leave “Wine Country” as the true top guy. Simply put, Larson doesn’t know how to lose right now.

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

“And to get back-to-back wins in the Cup Series is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. 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. 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.”


Stage 1 Results: Larson, Elliott, Ky. Busch, Bowman, Dillon, Reddick, Ku. Busch, DiBenedetto and Jones

Stage 2 Results: Larson, Logano, Bowman, Ku. Busch, Elliott, Byron, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin and Bell

Final Top 10 Results: Larson, Elliott, Truex Jr., Logano, Ky. Busch, Ku. Busch, Chastain, Hamlin, Bowman and Blaney'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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