2021 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Sonoma

The NASCAR Cup Series will make its much-anticipated return to the California valleys this weekend when it takes on Sonoma Raceway Sunday afternoon. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the track has not been on the circuit in close to two years, and while many drivers have experience at the course, the increased parity will only make the road course that much more intriguing in terms of how it affects the overall playoff picture.

Kyle Larson will start on the pole. Slowly but surely, Larson has put together a season almost on par with his four-win performance during the 2017 campaign. In 15 races, the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports has won twice and finished inside the top five in an additional six races on top of the two wins. Although Larson has started inside the top five in all six career Cup races at Sonoma (including three times on the pole), he has only one top-10 finish to show for it (June 23, 2019).

Larson’s teammate in Chase Elliott will start second. In four career Cup races at Sonoma, Elliott has finished inside the top 10 twice (eighth on June 25, 2017 and fourth on June 24, 2018). In 14 career road races in the Cup Series, Elliott has won six of them, with his most recent victory coming in the inaugural Cup race at Circuit of the Americas on May 23.

Kyle Busch has started to find his consistent championship-caliber form once more this season as the 36-year-old for Joe Gibbs Racing has finished inside the top 10 in four of his last five Cup races (including his win at Kansas Speedway on May 2). In 15 career Cup starts at Sonoma, Busch has two wins and five top-five finishes. Dating back to 2015, Busch has finished inside the top 10 in five-straight races at the track.

Martin Truex Jr., the most recent winner at Sonoma, will start 19th. The No. 19 machine for Joe Gibbs Racing currently ranks sixth in season points (486). In 14 career Cup races at Sonoma, Truex Jr. has three career wins. Over his last four races at the track dating back to 2016, Truex Jr. has three top-five finishes and two wins.

Stage lengths for the race will be 20-40-90. Coverage for the race will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST on FS1.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/06/01/goodyear-fast-facts-sonoma-mid-ohio/

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