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NASCAR National Series News & Notes -- Sonoma

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 25
The Time: 3:00pm/et
TV: FS1, 1:30pm/et
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 218.9 miles (110 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on lap 110)


Larson Wins Second Race Of Season, Takes Back Points Lead

Kyle Larson led a race-high 96 laps on his way to his second win of the season in last Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. In the process, he passed Martin Truex Jr. for the points lead and now holds a five-marker advantage over him.

The Elk Grove, California, native will look to build up his points edge when he returns to his home track - Sonoma Raceway - for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). In three career starts at Sonoma, Larson has finished 12th (2016), 15th (2015) and 28th (2014).

Larson is enjoying a breakout season in his fourth full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign. The 24-year-old Chevrolet driver boasts seven top-two finishes in 15 starts this year.


Stage Master: Truex Continues To Pick Up Playoff Points

It's doubtful anyone enjoys stage racing more than Martin Truex Jr. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver won the first two stages at Michigan to up his stage victories total to a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-leading 10. He now has a series-high 20 playoff points via his two checkered flags and 10 stage wins.

Truex ended up finishing sixth at Michigan, but picked up the second-most points (51) during the race. Despite his strong effort, he dropped to second in the standings where he trails Kyle Larson by five points.

Truex will attempt to take back his perch atop the standings in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway - a track where he won in 2013.

He leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in an abundance of statistical categories, including: average running position (7.1), driver rating (113.9), fastest laps run (525), and laps led (938).


Elliott Eyes First Win

Chase Elliott is still searching for his first career win, but has started to heat up as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season nears its midpoint.

Elliott has logged finishes of fifth (Dover), eighth (Pocono) and second (Michigan) in his last three starts. He now sits fifth in the standings - 162 points behind leader Kyle Larson.

In his two road course races as a Sunoco Rookie last year, Elliott placed 21st at Sonoma and 13th at Watkins Glen.


Road Course Ace Allmendinger Revved Up For Sonoma

JTG-Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger is always a threat to win at NASCAR's road courses.

In 2014, he visited Victory Lane at Watkins Glen to make the playoffs.

The last three years, he's started in the top-two at Sonoma, but self-inflicted mistakes - such as the tire he lost on pit road last year - have hurt his results. He's finished 14th (2016), 37th (2015) and 37th (2014). Allmendinger's 56 laps led in those three races are the most in the series.

"Sonoma is a real technical racetrack," Allmendinger said. "It's like a short track. You are beating and banging on each other. You can make passes there. The tires go away quick, but if you can conserve the tires better you can make passes. It's a challenging racetrack.

"The strategy has got you wondering when that last yellow is going to fall. If that yellow falls, do you pit, do you not pit? It's a challenge from start to finish because the opportunity is there to make a lot of mistakes and slide off the racetrack or to run into each other, which makes for great racing. In the end, I think it puts on one of the best races."


Parity At Sonoma

Eight different drivers have won the last eight races at Sonoma: Tony Stewart (2016), Kyle Busch (2015), Carl Edwards (2014), Martin Truex Jr. (2013), Clint Bowyer (2012), Kurt Busch (2011), Jimmie Johnson (2010), Kasey Kahne (2009).

In the last 12 years, Sonoma has had 10 different winners.

Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Truex, Bowyer, Johnson and Kahne are the only active drivers with wins at the Northern California road course. Kyle Busch is the only active driver to visit Victory Lane at Sonoma twice.


Hamlin Tops At Road Courses In 2016

Denny Hamlin was the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' top driver at road courses in 2016. The No. 11 Toyota driver won at Watkins Glen for his first career road course victory. Before that, he placed runner-up at Sonoma after leading a race-high 33 laps and getting passed by Tony Stewart on the final turn.

Hamlin's road course win cemented his position as one of NASCAR's most versatile drivers. He has won at least one race at a superspeedway, an intermediate track, a short track, a road course, a restrictor-plate track and three-turn Pocono Raceway.


Golden State Warriors

More active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers hail from California than any other state. The drivers from the Golden State entered in Sunday's race include: Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield), Matt DiBenedetto (Grass Valley), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), AJ Allmendinger (Los Gatos), Cole Whitt (Alpine) and Tommy Regan (Tracy).


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

America's Top Movie Cars 3 Will Be On Center Stage: Last weekend's top-rated movie at the box office, "Cars 3," will be on center stage for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma raceway. Comedian and actress Cristela Alonzo, the voice of Cruz Ramirez in "Cars 3," has been named Grand Marshal of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Disney•Pixar's John Lasseter will serve as the official pace car driver.