StatChat - NASCAR Cup Series @ Sonoma

Last weekend saw Kyle Larson win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in dominating fashion.  Larson has managed to defy expectations through this first (almost) half of the 2021 season.  Many pointed to the Bristol Dirt Race as being the place most likely to get Kyle Larson a win, due to his extensive dirt racing background.  He disappointed with a 29th place finish.  Larson’s first win this year (at Las Vegas) came a bit out of left field.  While we came to learn that a place like Las Vegas might actually be in his wheelhouse, as he has performed very well at many of the 550 HP tracks, he was the fourth in a string of big surprise winners at the time (the first three being McDowell, Bell, and Byron).


The narrative coming into Kyle Larson’s win at Charlotte was that he had trouble closing out races – he had just finished 2nd three times in a row.  It was also pointed out that since Larson had never won a race longer than 400 miles, a 600-mile race would be just too long for him to get a victory.  Again, Kyle Larson proved everyone wrong. 


So is he a true title contender? Logic would say yes.  His performance so far this year would also agree.  For whatever reason, there is still some doubt around him.  However, Kyle Larson may not be done surprising just yet.


This weekend the Cup Series heads west to Sonoma Raceway.  It opened in 1968 (then known as Sears Point), but only started hosting NASCAR in 1989, after the closure and demolition of California’s Riverside International Raceway.  The course features 12 turns and plenty of elevation change. 


This weekend’s race will be called the “Toyota Save Mart 350” and will be 90 laps (for a total of 226.80 miles), with stage breaks occurring at 20 – 40 – 90, and a competition caution at lap 10.  The fuel window is approximately 35-36 laps.


NASCAR has run 5,557.85 miles so far this year.  Austin Dillon has completed 99.88% of them, the most of any driver.


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Sonoma:

Kevin Harvick

12.74 over 19 races

Ryan Newman

12.83 over 18 races

Erik Jones

13.33 over 3 races

Kurt Busch

13.58 over 19 races

Joey Logano

14.27 over 11 races


Bottom 5 Career Average Finishers at Sonoma:

Cody Ware

36.00 over 2 races

Bubba Wallace

27.50 over 2 races

Michael McDowell

26.00 over 8 races

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25.86 over 7 races

William Byron

22.00 over 2 races


Sonoma is a Road Course


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Road Courses:

Chase Elliott

7.83 over 13 races

Joey Logano

9.40 over 27 races

Denny Hamlin

13.17 over 33 races

Alex Bowman

13.53 over 13 races

Erik Jones

14.50 over 11 races


Jeff Gordon is the winningest driver at Sonoma, having scored 5 wins.  Martin Truex Jr. has the most wins of current drivers, with 3.  Kyle Busch has 2, and no other driver has more than 1.


Notable drivers who have not won at Sonoma:

Brad Keselowski

(has won at 17 other tracks)

Denny Hamlin

(has won at 17 other tracks)

Joey Logano

(has won at 15 other tracks)

Ryan Newman

(has won at 12 other tracks)

Chase Elliott

(has won at 10 other tracks)


No current driver scored their first Cup Series win at Sonoma.


No drivers list Sonoma as their BEST track, however both Denny Hamlin and William Byron list it as their WORST track.


Based on their point pace, let’s have a look at who’s having a better year than last year.


Drivers Faring Better than in 2020

William Byron

+431 pts

Daniel Suarez

+295 pts

Michael McDowell

+238 pts

Chris Buescher

+222 pts

Denny Hamlin

+215 pts


Drivers Faring Worse than in 2020

Aric Almirola

-536 pts

Kurt Busch

-305 pts

Kevin Harvick

-289 pts

Erik Jones

-279 pts

Brad Keselowski

-164 pts


While some drivers may be doing better this year than they did in 2020, how does this year stack up against their entire career?  This statistic does not include rookies, as this is their first full year in the Cup Series.


Drivers Having their BEST Career Year

Denny Hamlin


William Byron


Chase Elliott


Kyle Larson


Austin Dillon


Ryan Blaney


Chris Buescher


Michael McDowell


Ross Chastain


Ryan Preece



Drivers Having their WORST Career Year

Aric Almirola


Erik Jones





In 2017, NASCAR introduced the concept of Stage Racing, which pauses the race at certain intervals and awards bonus points for the top 10 at that moment.  Here are the Top-5 Stage Point earners so far this year:


Stage Point Leaders:

Denny Hamlin

193 pts

Kyle Larson

148 pts

Chase Elliott

132 pts

William Byron

116 pts

Ryan Blaney

102 pts


For those that aren’t aware, the Manufacturer Standings are calculated by awarding points to the highest finisher for each manufacturer according to their finishing position.  (40 for 1st, 35 for 2nd, 34 for 3rd, etc.)  No stage points or playoff points count.


Manufacturer Standings








Here is the same formula, but used on a team-vs-team basis:


Chartered Team Standings



Joe Gibbs






Richard Childress


Roush Fenway




Chip Ganassi


Front Row


Wood Brothers




Richard Petty






Rick Ware


Live Fast







The race begins Sunday, June 6th at 4:00 pm EST (1:00 pm PST) – Enjoy the race everyone!


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