NASCAR Xfinity Series

Aric Almirola stone cold in Sonoma stunner

3 Mins read
Credit: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Kyle Larson is one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series and motorsport in general, as well as a former Cup winner at Sonoma Raceway. It was not surprising that he would dominate the lower Xfinity Series‘ inaugural trip to his home circuit on Saturday, crushing the field in practice and qualifying before leading the bulk of the race.

What was surprising, however, was that a late restart and rare stumble would do in his hopes of completing the daily sweep. Instead, Aric Almirola was the Cup driver in Victory Lane.

Larson led 53 of 80 laps ad swept both stages, asserting his dominance in such convincing fashion that he was leading the field by over thirteen seconds. Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s crash with fifteen laps remaining set up a restart for which Larson began in the second row behind Alex Labbé and Daniel Suárez, who elected not to pit. While the front row sparred with Almirola, Larson got caught up in a battle for third with A.J. Allmendinger before Larson clipped a stack of tyres in the final hairpin.

With his Cup colleagues fighting each other, Almirola drove off to his fourth career Xfinity win and first in any national series on a road course. The win was also the first for RSS Racing.

“This is so special. It’s hard to explain,” said Almirola. “I know it’s an Xfinity win. It’s not a Cup win, but after COTA, I told Davin (Restivo, Cup engineer) and Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief), I was like, ‘I really don’t think I should run any more road course races in the Xfinity car. It makes me look like a wanker and I lose self-confidence going into Sunday.’

“But I knew that this race track, this is one I can run good at. I’ve run good here my whole career. I don’t know what it is about this place, but I love racing here.”

Even if in a lower series, Almirola hopes the victory can help turn his fortunes around on the Cup side. Since deciding to put off his retirement plans at the end of 2022, he has endured a difficult 2023 campaign with just one top ten and sitting twenty-fifth in points.

“It’s been a really tough year on the Cup side and to come out here and get a win and get to celebrate,” he continued. “My kids came out. We’re going to spend the week in California for our off week and they’re going to get to go to Victory Lane. That is so special. The pictures we have at home with our family in Victory Lane mean the most to me, so I’m so excited to share this Victory Lane here.”

With Ty Gibbs in fourth, the top four were all Cup regulars.

Race results

1428Aric Almirola*RSS RacingFord79Running
2510A.J. Allmendinger*Kaulig RacingChevrolet79Running
3117Kyle Larson*Hendrick MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
4719Ty Gibbs*Joe Gibbs RacingToyota79Running
51248Parker KligermanBig Machine Racing TeamChevrolet79Running
62600Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord79Running
727Justin AllgaierJR MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
81321Austin HillRichard Childress RacingChevrolet79Running
91018Sammy SmithJoe Gibbs RacingToyota79Running
1061Sam MayerJR MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
1132Sheldon CreedRichard Childress RacingChevrolet79Running
121425Brett MoffittAM RacingFord79Running
13811Daniel HemricKaulig RacingChevrolet79Running
142016Chandler SmithKaulig RacingChevrolet79Running
152398Riley HerbstStewart-Haas RacingFord79Running
16920John Hunter NemechekJoe Gibbs RacingToyota79Running
172451Jeremy ClementsJeremy Clements RacingChevrolet79Running
181591Ross Chastain*DGM RacingChevrolet79Running
192536Josh BilickiDGM RacingChevrolet79Running
202726Kaz GralaSam Hunt RacingToyota79Running
21289Brandon JonesJR MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
221808Kyle WeathermanSS-Green Light RacingFord79Running
23324Ty Dillon*JD MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
243343Dylan LuptonAlpha Prime RacingChevrolet79Running
251129Alex LabbéRSS RacingFord79Running
263027Jeb BurtonJordan Anderson RacingChevrolet79Running
271707Daniel Suárez*SS-Green Light RacingChevrolet79Running
283439Ryan SiegRSS RacingFord79Running
293153Brad PérezEmerling-Gase MotorsportsToyota79Running
303602Blaine PerkinsOur MotorsportsChevrolet79Running
313838Joe Graf Jr.RSS RacingFord79Running
322924Connor MosackSam Hunt RacingToyota78Running
33198Josh BerryJR MotorsportsChevrolet76Running
342144Sage KaramAlpha Prime RacingChevrolet71Transmission
352292Josh WilliamsDGM RacingChevrolet60Suspension
363545Jeffrey EarnhardtAlpha Prime RacingChevrolet59Accident
373778Anthony AlfredoB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet44Suspension
381631Parker RetzlaffJordan Anderson RacingChevrolet21Transmission
DNQ6Brennan PooleJD MotorsportsChevrolet
DNQ35Leland Honeyman Jr.Emerling-Gase MotorsportsChevrolet
DNQ66Mason Filippi*MBM MotorsportsFord
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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