Kyle Larson wins at Sonoma as Hendrick continues month of NASCAR dominance
Kyle Larson beat teammate Chase Elliott in overtime at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday to win his second consecutive race as Hendrick Motorsports continued a month of dominance.
Hendrick drivers have won four straight races dating to Alex Bowman’s May 16 victory. Larson’s win a week ago in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway made Rick Hendrick the winningest owner in NASCAR history.
So it was expected that one of Hendrick’s four drivers would win again Sunday, when NASCAR returned to the California wine country for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic.
But the win was supposed to go to reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott, the current king of the road with six victories on road courses including a victory over Larson two weeks ago in the rain-shortened debut at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. showed more technical skill, but Logan Paul avoided a knockout during an eight-round exhibition match in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Instead the win went to Larson, the local racer from Elk Grove who was an infant the first time he attended a NASCAR race at Sonoma. And even though it was in overtime, it wasn’t close.
Larson, who had led just 11 laps in six previous races at Sonoma, won all three stages Sunday and led a race-high 58 of the 92 laps. The eighth caution sent the race to overtime for a two-race sprint shootout, but he easily cleared Elliott on the restart and pulled away for his first career victory on the 12-turns, 2.52-mile course.
Larson has three Cup wins this season; Hendrick Motorsports has seven among its four drivers and Bowman at ninth Sunday gave them three in the top 10.
Elliott finished second as Hendrick tied Carl Kiekhaefer in 1956 with four consecutive 1-2 finishes.
Race fans return
Sonoma welcomed roughly 15,000 fans — the first time in 714 days spectators have been permitted at the raceway — for NASCAR’s first trip to California since the start of the pandemic. It was likely the last race with limited spectators as nearly all the upcoming venues on NASCAR’s calendars have announced plans to open all seats for sale.
With the reopening came a return of dignitaries including Michael Jordan’s first appearance in the garage as co-owner of 23XI Racing. Although NASCAR has permitted the team owner to return to the infield since the start of the year, Jordan watched from a suite at the Daytona 500 and had not been seen at the track since.
San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was the grand marshal and mingled with drivers before the race. Food Network star Guy Fieri drove the ceremonial pace car and 15-year-old U.S. Skateboarding champion Minna Stess from Petaluma performed an exhibition.
Shanahan was impressed with his first NASCAR race.
“I had no idea what goes into it,” he said. “I’ve seen ‘Talladega Nights’ and I thought that’s where it ended. I just thought you drive fast.”
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