California dreamin’, Larson victorious in Fontana


It was a bow-tie dominated affair under the west-coast sun as Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson took his #5 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet to victory lane, marking his 2nd victory at the track and his first with Hendrick.

Chevrolet on top

His win didn’t come easy…nor without controversy. Late into the last stage under threat from Penske’s Joey Logano, Larson made an aggressive move to the high-lane going into turn 1 contacting stablemate Chase Elliot and pushing Elliot into the outside wall. Elliot would go on to voice his displeasure with Larson over the team radio and ultimately finished 2 laps down in 26th, a shocking start for the 2020 Champion in the first season of the NextGen cars.

Austin Dillon (#3), Eric Jones (#43), and Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez (#99) would go on to finish 2nd-4th for Chevrolet in what was a striking contrast to last weeks Ford-dominated Daytona 500.

Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Daniel Hemric, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would all go on to round out the top-10 with nine different teams represented amongst those finishing drivers. Six of the top-10 drivers were powered by Chevrolet, which also saw eventual 24th place finisher Tyler Reddick sweeping Stage 1 and 2 for valuable stage points.

Reddick was involved in a late race incident with the #24 of William Byron that saw Bryon retiring with significant damage and Reddick being lapped by the leader under caution due to repairs.

Cautions aplenty

It was a yellow-flag affair on multiple occasions with a total of 12 cautions being thrown. Many of these were simply for single-car spins that resulted in a beached or stuck vehicle as the NextGen’s low-profile tires and the flat floor of the chassis are causing many to be stuck on track or mired in the grassy infield once they have flat rear tires.

NASCAR’s current solution to flat-tow the car when possible is a clunky method that does work, but leaves much to be desired. In two races we’ve seen almost every driver who requires a tow goes at least one lap down even under caution. With the previous 15″ wheels and the double-liner tires that were implemented, drivers could limp a wounded vehicle back to pit lane for fresh tires, resulting in only positions, not laps, lost under green flag or yellow conditions.

It will be interesting to see how NASCAR addresses this moving forward, especially as we head to Circuit of the America’s in late March for the first road course event of 2022.

Heading to the Strip

Larson’s victory punches his ticket to the 2022 Chase for the Cup, joining Austin Cindric in the hunt, and puts him squarely in position to defend his 2021 title. We head to Fabulous Las Vegas next week on March 6th for the Pennzoil 400 at the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the home race for Kurt and Kyle Busch, so there is sure to be some fireworks and some gambling to bring home the W.

Related Link: Wise Power 400 Results
NASCAR Top-16 Driver Standings
1Austin Cindric851111
2Kyle Larson651111
3Joey Logano770011
4Martin Truex Jr.730000
5Ryan Blaney700011
6Chase Briscoe690011
7Erik Jones680011
8Aric Almirola660012
9Bubba Wallace650011
10Brad Keselowski640001
11Kyle Busch610001
12Kurt Busch530001
13Ricky Stenhouse Jr.530001
14Austin Dillon520011
15Daniel Suarez520011
16Cole Custer480000