Aric Almirola knew Sonoma Raceway is a track that wouldn‘t make him look like a “wanker.”
Far from it. Holding off the dominant car of Kyle Larson—until Larson made a critical mistake—and then outrunning road course ace AJ Allmendinger over the final laps, Almirola won Saturday‘s DoorDash 250 at the 1.99-mile road course.
The victory was Almirola’s fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and his first since 2017, when he won at Talladega for owner Fred Biagi.
The win also was the first-ever for Georgia-based RSS Racing, which fields cars for brothers Ryan and Kyle Sieg. The Stewart-Haas Racing shop prepared the car for Almirola.
Driving the No. 28 Ford, Almirola took the checkered flag 1.868 seconds ahead of runner-up Allmendinger, with Larson running third 3.329 seconds back. Almirola had taken the lead from the fifth position on a Lap 65 restart, an advantage he held the rest of the way.
“Oh, man, this is so special,” said Almirola, who was making his second Xfinity start of the season after a 24th-place finish at Circuit of the Americas in April. “It‘s hard to explain. I know it‘s an Xfinity win—it‘s not a Cup win, but after COTA (I said) I don‘t think I should run any more road course races in an Xfinity car.
“It makes me look like a wanker, and I lose self-confidence going into Sunday. But I knew that this racetrack, this is one I that can run good at. I‘ve run good here my whole career. I don‘t know what it is about this place, but I love racing here.”
Larson swept the first two stages and held a lead of more than 13 seconds over Allmendinger when Jeffrey Earnhardt backed into the barrier in Turn 10 on Lap 60 and caused the race‘s second caution.
If the subsequent restart on Lap 65 was crucial to Almirola‘s victory, Larson‘s mistake on Lap 72 was even more so. On Lap 72 of 79, Larson drove hard into the Turn 11 hairpin within inches of Almirola‘s back bumper and clipped one of the stacks of tires defining the corner.
Larson‘s Chevrolet shot to the left of the racing line, and by the time he had righted the car, Allmendinger had passed him for second.
“I just got too greedy,” said Larson, who led a race-high 53 laps to Almirola‘s 17. “I was kind of tucked up right behind him, clipped the tires, and it knocked the wheel out of my hands. After that the toe was off. I was really tight in the left and really loose in the right, so I couldn‘t make runs at it…
“I‘m really mad at myself right now, but I‘m really proud of the car they (Hendrick Motorsports) brought. Congrats to Aric, too. He did a really good job out in front of me, hitting his marks. He could kind of get away from me in a couple of important areas and would make me have to work hard behind him. So hats off to him and that team.”
Ty Gibbs ran fourth, as full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers claimed the top four finishing positions. Parker Kligerman led the Xfinity regulars in fifth, followed by Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill, Sammy Smith and Sam Mayer.
— NASCAR Wire Service —
View more on the Sonoma Race Page.