Date: June 6, 2021
Event: Save Mart 350k (Round 16 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (2.52-mile, 12-turn road course)
Format: 90 laps, broken into four stages (20 laps/20 laps/50 laps)
Start/Finish: 23rd / 20th (Running, completed 92 of 92 laps)
Point Standing: 27th (253 points, 411 out of first)
Note: Race extended two laps past its scheduled 90-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Race Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-20):
● Cole Custer started 23rd and finished 19th.
● The No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford held his relative starting position in the early laps, then moved up to fifth by the lap-10 competition caution as more than half the field opted to pit early for the allowable tire changes and adjustments.
● Custer said he struggled with tight handling on both the short and long run and asked the team for help loosening up his racecar, particularly over the long run. He pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted 24th on lap 13.
● Again, he held his relative position and moved up to 19th by the stage’s end, saying he still needed help turning the racecar. Custer did not pit during the break.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 21-40):
● Custer started sixth and finished 18th.
● The No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford continued to struggle with a tight handling condition and fell victim to competitors from behind who were on fresher tires. Custer was 23rd when the caution flag flew for a single-car incident on lap 31. He pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted 25th on lap 34.
● The Ladera Ranch native picked up seven positions by the end of the stage and pitted during the break for tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to help remedy the front end of the car’s ability to turn.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 41-92):
● Custer started 27th and finished 20th.
● The No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com driver reported his racecar restarted better than it had all day as he picked up a pair of positions during the opening four laps of the stage.
● Custer was up to 12th when he was called to the pits during the green-flag cycle of stops on lap 62. He took tires and fuel and further adjustments to remedy the car’s ability to turn.
● The caution flag flew on lap 70 for a car stopped on track with Custer running 20th. He said his Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford was the best it had been all day, but that he still could use short-run speed. He pitted for tires, fuel and chassis and air-pressure adjustments and restarted 23rd on lap 74.
● The caution flag flew once again for a multicar incident in turn 11 on lap 76 with Custer having climbed to 19th. He stayed on track and restarted in the same position on lap 79.
● Custer dropped three positions during the run to the next caution flag on lap 85 for a multicar incident in the esses. He stayed on track and restarted 20th on lap 87, then emerged in 17th through a melee ahead of him during the restart that brought out another caution flag.
● He stayed on track and was 17th for the green-white-checkered finish that began on lap 90, but he was shuffled back to 20th by the time the checkered flag flew.
● This was Custer’s first NASCAR Cup Series start at Sonoma.
● Kyle Larson won the Save Mart 350k to score his ninth career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his third of the season, his first at Sonoma and his first on a road course. His margin over second-place Chase Elliott was .614 of a second.
● There were eight caution periods for a total of 18 laps.
● Thirty-three of the 37 drivers in the Save Mart 350k finished on the lead lap.
● Denny Hamlin remains the championship leader after Sonoma with a 47-point advantage over second-place Larson.
Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“It was definitely a battle all day. We got our Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford better and better. For our first time in Sonoma, it was a little bit tough not having any practice. We worked on it all day and survived. And I think we got a decent finish, although it wasn’t the finish we wanted, especially in our first race of the year with Autodesk, which is based just down the way in San Francisco. So we’ll go back and figure out how to make it better.”
The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the nonpoints NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday, June 13, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race starts at 8 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio beginning at 6 p.m. with the undercard NASCAR All-Star Open.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!