NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson dominates Toyota/Save Mart 350, wins first road race

4 Mins read
Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports have been on a tear in the NASCAR Cup Series in the past month. On Sunday, Larson scored his second straight victory when he dominated the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway for his first career road course win. Hendrick team-mate Chase Elliott was second to secure the team’s fourth straight 1–2 finish.

Larson started on the pole alongside Elliott, while Anthony Alfredo and Scott Heckert were sent to the rear after failing pre-race inspection twice and for unapproved adjustments, respectively. Elliott had won the most recent road race at COTA in May.

It was the Larson Show from the start as he led every lap of the opening stage under green (Denny Hamlin prevented a clean sweep by leading two laps under the competition caution). Elliott, the most successful road racer in the field with six such wins, followed Larson in the stage results ahead of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who had won the last two Sonoma races. Alex BowmanAustin DillonTyler ReddickKurt BuschMatt DiBenedetto, and Erik Jones rounded out the top ten.

Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto stayed out between stages to lead the field to the start of Stage #2. William Byron claimed the lead on lap 28 and led until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. blew an engine and hit the turn one wall to bring out a caution. Larson assumed first for the restart with seven laps left in the stage and scored yet another stage win. Joey Logano, Bowman, Busch, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Hamlin, and Daytona Road Course winner Christopher Bell.

Elliott took the top spot to begin the final stage, leading thirteen laps before Larson returned to the position. A brief pit cycle enabled Logano and Kyle Busch to lead laps until it shuffled back to Larson. Four cautions took place during the stage beginning with Quin Houff‘s car suffering a locked rear end and stopped on lap 72. Six laps later, as they went through the final hairpin, Ross Chastain jumped the kerb while racing Corey LaJoie on the inside, sending the two spinning and Kevin Harvick into Chastain’s back; Byron and Jones suffered damage in the ensuing stack-up.

On lap 87, Ryan Preece spun off course in the downhill eases and rejoined the racing surface as Cody Ware approached. Ware could not dodge Preece and hit his rear before spinning him.

“The 37 came back on track recklessly and I had had nowhere to go,” Ware tweeted“Stupid end to a day where we fought back from a lot of hard stuff.”

Perhaps living up to the adage of “cautions breed cautions”, Bell spun in turn four and clipped Alfredo on lap 89. Alfredo’s Front Row Motorsports partner Michael McDowell was turned himself by Daniel Suárez in turn eleven.

“Ya, we came close too,” FRM tweeted in response to a post by Suárez’s Trackhouse Racing Team saying he had nearly achieved a top ten. Trackhouse answered“There’s always 2 sides to each story.”

Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Overtime was called after the incident, and Larson battled with Elliott before holding him off to claim his third win of the year, second in a row (a career first), and first on a road course. For the Elk Grove, California native, it is also a home track victory as Sonoma is approximately 82 miles away; he won at the track in 2014 in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West. Larson is the first Hendrick driver besides Elliott to win on a road course since Jimmie Johnson triumphed at Sonoma in 2010, and the first such driver from Chevrolet to do so since Tony Stewart in Sonoma 2016.

“I was a little bit nervous to start the race just having Chase Elliott, who is probably the best road racer right now, lined up next to me,” Larson said in his post-race press conference. “When I was able to kind of stretch out from him, then kind of slow myself down, I was able to learn some things about the track, kind of get into a rhythm. From then on, we were really good. Even passing cars was easier than I’ve ever had here before.

“Just really shows how good my race car was today. Worked out great to win both stages and the race. Just an unbelievable race car, which it has been all year long. We just now finally have been able to get some wins to show for it.”

The win also continues a magical four-race stretch for Hendrick as the team notches a fourth consecutive win. Elliott placed second to mark the team’s fourth straight 1–2 finish, tying the record set by Carl Kiekhaefer‘s outfit in 1956 with Herb ThomasBuck Baker, and Speedy Thompson at Langhorne SpeedwayAtlantic Rural FairgroundsColumbia Speedway, and Concord Speedway (as part of a 16-race win streak for Kiekhaefer). Larson has been involved in all four 1–2 runs.

“I think Hendrick Motorsports and just the cars that they bring to every racetrack right now, but today I think our car was better than Hendrick Motorsports has been here in the past,” Larson added. “I think that helps my job out a lot.”

Race results

115Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
229Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
31919Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota92Running
41322Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord92Running
5518Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota92Running
6301Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet92Running
72942Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet92Running
8411Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota92Running
9748Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
101112Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord92Running
111843Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
121699Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet92Running
1363Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet92Running
141523Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota92Running
1592Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord92Running
161217Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord92Running
172514Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord92Running
18227Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
19108Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet92Running
202341Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord92Running
212737Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet92Running
2284Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord92Running
231721Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord92Running
242020Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota92Running
253215James DavisonRick Ware RacingChevrolet92Running
263578Scott HeckertLive Fast MotorsportsFord92Running
272610Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord92Running
282134Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord92Running
293652Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord92Running
303177Ben Rhodes*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet92Running
312838Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord92Running
323453Garrett Smithley*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet92Running
33246Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord92Running
343751Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet84Accident
35324William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet76Accident
363300Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet69Rear Gear
371447Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet40Engine
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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About author
Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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