Aric Almirola has added a historic win to his resume. He captured the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway after stunning the field.
Almirola, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series, made a one-off start for RSS Racing.
Almirola only led 17 laps, but he took advantage of pit strategy and a rare mistake by Kyle Larson before capturing the first win in RSS Racing's history.
AJ Allmendinger and Larson, two other Cup Series drivers pulling double duty at Sonoma, went on to finish second and third.
Cup rookie Ty Gibbs finished fourth while Xfinity Series regular Parker Kligerman rounded out the top five.
Larson was the dominant driver during the Xfinity Series race at the California road course.
He started from the pole after posting the fastest lap by nearly one second, and he led 39 of the first 45 laps while sweeping the opening two stages.
NASCAR removed the Cautions between stages over the off-season, which meant that Larson was not able to keep his spot at the front of the pack after taking the green and white chequered flag for the second time.
He had to pit for fresh tyres and fuel once more so that he could reach the end of the race.
The pit stop dropped Larson from the lead, but he wasted no time working his way back as other drivers began making their expected final stops.
Once he cycled back to the lead, he was more than 11 seconds ahead of Allmendinger in second and Gibbs in third.
Larson was able to build this advantage to nearly 14 seconds before the situation drastically changed.
Jeffrey Earnhardt went off the track and had a hard collision with the wall, which brought out the Caution with 19 laps remaining.
Daniel Suarez, Alex Labbe, and Almirola gambled by staying out while other drivers pitted, which put them at the front of the pack for the final restart.
Larson's car was the fastest in the field, so it seemed inevitable that he would take the lead from Almirola before the end of the race.
He got beside his fellow Cup Series driver with nine laps remaining, but he dropped back to second while crossing the start-finish line.
Something odd happened entering Turn 11 with eight laps remaining. Larson was right behind Almirola entering the corner, but his #17 Chevrolet turned left and headed toward the outside wall after he clipped one of the tyre barriers.
“[The contact] yanked the wheel out of my hand and even after that the toe [link] was bent,” Larson said on pit road after the race.
“So yeah, just was tight to the left after that and then really loose in the right, so it's really hurt my shot of having any chance.”
Larson missed out on his second win of the 2023 Xfinity Series season despite having the best car in the field.
Meanwhile, Almirola won his fourth Xfinity Series race in 103 starts, his first on a road course.