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Drivers Twisting And Turning In Wine Country Races
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt. Jr. made his final appearance at Sonoma Raceway over the weekend. He is retiring at the end of this season. Photo By Jeff Burghardt

The stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrived in beautiful wine country, California, for the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway over the weekend. The 2014 Series Champion, Kevin Harvick, completed the weekend sweep by winning both the Carneros 200 and the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

On Saturday, Harvick returned to his California roots by competing in the K&N West Series event. He started sixth out of 32 cars. Harvick battled his way forward during the 64-lap event. As the laps wound down Harvick found himself battling a Series rookie, Will Rogers, for the win. Rogers who qualified on the pole for the event came up a half second short of Harvick for the win.

When Sunday rolled around the weather during the morning looked to play a factor as the marine layer hung over the race track until five minutes before the drop of the green flag. Kyle Larson in his Target Chevy led the 38-car field to the green flag and held the lead for the first nine laps before being overtaken by Martin Truex Jr. On Lap 16 NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. locked up the brakes heading into turn 11, thus spinning sideways and sliding across the track and coming to a stop right in front of Danica Patrick, who then hit Earnhardt’s #88 Chevy in the door. Both drivers were able to continue on and would run into each other again. On lap 32 Earnhardt found himself alongside Larson and Patrick coming out of turn 4. Patrick got loose and spun around and was hit by Rickey Stenhouse. As the race continued with pit stops and on track action Harvick and his Mobil 1 Ford were at the front of the pack with 24 laps to go. On the final lap Kasey Khane lost control of his #5 Microsoft Chevy and slammed hard into the turn 1 retaining wall. Khane climbed from his damaged race car unhurt. Harvick went on to capture his first cup series victory at Sonoma Raceway and 36th of his career, pulling off the rare feat of winning both weekend races. The win automatically puts Harvick into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs to have an opportunity at the season championship.

The 2017 Season marks the end of an era as Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced earlier this season that he will be retiring from full time racing at the conclusion of the season. This was Earnhardt’s 17th and final appearance at Sonoma Raceway with his best finish being third in 2014. He finished sixth at this event. Earnhardt is the fourth star of NASCAR to retire in the past three seasons. Jeff Gordon retired in 2015 and both Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards retired at the end of the 2016 season.

The next stop for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is Daytona for the Coke Zero 400.