May 14, 2021

by a NASCAR fanatic - not affiliated with NASCAR

Friday afternoon saw an eventful second and final practice for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Early in the session, Cole Whitt lost an engine in his TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet, oiling down the area around Turn 2 at the 1.99-mile road course.

At virtually the same time, Erik Jones crashed in Turn 11 at the opposite end of the track, forcing the Furniture Row Racing team to roll out a back up No. 77 Toyota for the rookie driver.

“I don’t have a lot of road course experience anyways and then to get thrown into the fire,” said Jones. “I wish we could do any kind of testing anywhere. It’s hard to show up and get out there to do it. Just one of those things trying to learn and you make a mistake.”

Then, with 15 minutes left in practice, Chase Elliott had a hard crash in Turn 10. Like Jones, Elliott will have to go to a backup for the race.

“I just made a mistake,” said Elliott. “My fault.”

In terms of speed, the fastest car in practice was the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Kyle Larson, last week’s winner at Michigan International Speedway and the current series points leader.

Larson had a best lap of 94.389 miles per hour at the Sonoma track, tops among the 38 cars entered.

“I’m always pretty confident when I go to here or Watkins Glen,” said Larson.  “I feel like these places feel most similar to a sprint car than our typical ovals do. I feel like I can feel the car better at these places. I don’t have a ton of great finishes, but I typically run up front at this race.”

Kyle Busch, a two-time winner here, was second at 94.344 mph in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Busch is riding a 31-race winless streak, but has won twice here already and figures to be one of the favorites again.

Third was a bit of a surprise, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. wheeled the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a lap of 94.242 mph. Earnhardt used to struggle mightily here but has gotten a lot better in recent years.

“If you get a good car at any race track that is the way to accelerate that learning curve and figure out what you need to be doing as a driver to get around that track,” said Earnhardt.

AJ Allmendinger was fourth ahead of Larson’s Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray.

Then came the Stewart-Haas Racing Fords of Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

Qualifying for Sunday’s race takes place Saturday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. ET, with live television coverage on FS1.

See the full final practice results by clicking here.

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