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NASCAR Cup at Sonoma: Larson a dominant winner again

Sonoma, CA, June 6/21 (by John Davison): The march continued for Kyle Larson after dominating the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday, then winning the World of Outlaws winged sprint car race Monday at Lawrenceburg, IN and then sweeping both Stages and winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup race at Sonoma Raceway. Less than seven days, hour-to-hour elapsed between Larson's victories at Charlotte, Lawrenceburg and Sonoma. In his wins, Larson led 328 laps of 400 at Charlotte, 25 of 35 at Lawrenceburg and then 57 laps out of the 92 laps on the road course. In addition to the Californian's first road course win, he added to the record number of wins by Hendrick Motorsports, giving the organization 270 wins.

Larson started the race from the pole, thanks to NASCAR’s current 'no practice, no qualifying’ regime at most events. The race went almost caution-free except for a competition yellow and Stage ends. Ricky Stenhouse needed a tow during the second Stage, then the third Stage saw the four cautions, the final one sending the race into an overtime finish.

Larson led six times for a total of 57 laps, finally heading the final 27 laps and withstanding challenges from runner-up Chase Elliott and Martin Truex with a margin at the checker of 0.614 second over his fellow Hendrick driver Elliott. Seven drivers led at one time or another at the 2.52 mile road course, but Larson seemed destined to dominate the event, driving through the field on fresh tires several times and using pit strategy to move to the front group.

"It was not easy," said Larson. "Any road course isn't easy, just trying to keep it on track is tough; especially when you've got two of the best behind you on the last restart, Chase (Elliott) and Martin (Truex, Jr.). I felt like I did a good job at the one before and stretched it out a little bit and didn’t want to give him another try at it, but he kept the pressure on. Martin was strong too, but what a car.

“This is unbelievable. I 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. And to get back-to-back wins in the Cup Series is something I've always dreamed of doing and 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. And 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."

Second place finisher Chase Elliott commented: " I would have tried to give him a little better run. But congratulations to Kyle (Larson) and Cliff (Daniels, crew chief), and everybody on the No. 5 team. They've been doing an amazing job.

“I feel like we were a lot better there at the end than we were at the beginning; and definitely the best I've ever been here, I feel like, at Sonoma, in particular. I'm pleased with that."

William Byron had a good run early in a third HMS car, but was knocked out when he got involved in a crash on lap 76. "I was trying to roll the outside of the No. 43 (Erik Jones) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) was in front of me. I thought he was going to run the bottom and obviously somebody spun in front of him and caused a big pileup. It stinks, but we were struggling all day to be honest. So, we have to go back and work on that. Definitely learned some lessons. Thanks to Axalta, Chevrolet and everyone. We'll re-group. It was really the first bad weekend of the year, so we'll re-group from it."

Third place finisher Martin Truex admitted that his "only hope was for it really to go green the rest of the race there in that third Stage once we both pitted and we were one-two. He (Kyle Larson) drove by me and he was just super fast for 10 laps. Our only chance was if the race would have gone green from there and I still don't even know. He was really fast for 15 laps then obviously once we started getting all those cautions, we were toast. Definitely not what we needed.

"I don't know if it was afterburners, but it's a good team and a good driver. Not making any mistakes and doing everything right and whatever it takes. He's (Kyle Larson) always been good here. Obviously, all the poles he's gotten, he's never had a car that could stay under him all day long. I'm not surprised he won. He did a hell of a job."

The next NASCAR Cup race will be the non-points All-Star race next Sunday, June 13 at Texas Motor Speedway.

• Click HERE for the race results


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