The NASCAR Cup Series continued their season this weekend with a third road course race. Sonoma Raceway played host to the Toyota Save Mart 350 on Sunday afternoon. In a fitting encore to last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, Kyle Larson dominated this NASCAR race at his home track. The No. 5 Camaro won both stages and would go on to win the race, Larson’s third victory of the 2021 season. The recent run of dominance for both Larson and Hendrick Motorsports is once again a theme in this week’s NASCAR recap.
Kyle Larson Wins NASCAR Cup Series Race at Sonoma
Toyota Save Mart 350 Stage 1
Kyle Larson started this race on the pole and led the field to the green flag. Christopher Bell had to pit very early on as he had a fuel line problem. Although he fell a lap down, he got the free pass at the competition caution and would spend ample time running in the top-10 later on in the race. Martin Truex Jr. started 19th but was on a mission to get to the front early. The competition caution would bunch the field up, but it would not help anyone catch Larson. The No. 5 car went on to win Stage 1.
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Toyota Save Mart 350 Stage 2
After varying pit stop strategies played out, the field took the green and Stage 2 was underway. Tyler Reddick made a bold move trying to pass Alex Bowman on the outside. Unfortunately for Reddick, the No. 48 gave him a tap and his car wound up with a tire rub, forcing him to pit. William Byron eventually passed Kurt Busch for the lead. Rickey Stenhouse Jr. caused the first incident caution of the day as he pounded the turn one wall after cutting down a tire. Bubba Wallace also cut a tire down with just three laps to go in the stage. Somehow, he managed to limp his car for nearly an entire lap and made it to pit road. Kyle Larson clearly had the fastest car and went on to sweep the stages.
Toyota Save Mart 350 Final Stage
Chase Elliott got a great launch and took the lead away from Kurt Busch on the Stage 3 restart. Kyle Larson would come from mid-pack to get to reclaim the lead with about 30 laps to go. Martin Truex Jr. tried to play the pit strategy game by pitting before Larson, but it was to no avail. Later, Quin Houff’s engine expired to bring out the second caution for cause of the race. As any NASCAR fan knows, cautions breed cautions. We certainly weren’t done with the yellow flag there.
Corey LaJoie got spun around by Ross Chastain and caused a pile-up in the middle of Turn 11. A bunch of cars took damage in this wreck, including Kevin Harvick and William Byron. The No. 24 car had its day ended in this crash. Then, Ryan Preece got tagged by Matt DiBenedetto coming through the esses. Preece got going again but pulled out onto the track right in front of Cody Ware. The ensuing collision brought out another caution.
Next, it was Anthony Alfredo’s turn. He got spun around and brought out another yellow to send the Toyota Save Mart 350 into overtime. Kyle Larson beat Chase Elliott on the restart once again and would go on to win the race. Larson has now won the last seven stages and dominated each of the last two NASCAR recaps.
Final Toyota Save Mart 350 Thoughts
Personally, when it comes to road course races, the NASCAR Cup Series needs to eliminate the stages. They make them so much worse from a spectator’s point of view. It takes away the fuel mileage strategy and that is part of what makes them so much fun to watch. Sonoma Raceway REALLY needs any help to make the races more appealing. Since the arrival of stage racing, they haven’t had a good race at the track. The good news is that with the Next Gen Cars coming next year, help may be on the way. Aside from that, Kyle Larson is the NASCAR driver to beat as the Cup Series prepares for the All-Star Race next weekend.
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