Kyle Larson leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series into Sonoma Raceway on Sunday for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Right now the series is all about Larson, who won a pole a week ago in Michigan and proceeded to trump the entire field on the way to a checkered flag.
The 24-year-old's triumph means the series now boasts four multi-race winners already this season as he joins Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
The series hasn't been as front-loaded as it seems so far, not with guys like Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon clutching checkered flags, leaving notables such as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch without.
So, while a few have stood strong amid the new stage format, others have yet to find traction. All involved will get another shot Sunday at one of the season's premier road-racing events.
Where: Sonoma Raceway
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Toyota/Save Mart 350 Entries
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
|1. Jimmie Johnson||449|
|2. Kyle Larson||640|
|3. Martin Truex Jr.||635|
|4. Brad Keselowski||476|
|5. Ryan Blaney||376|
|6. Kurt Busch||359|
|7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||354|
|8. Ryan Newman||344|
|9. Austin Dillon||297|
|10. Kyle Busch||510|
|11. Kevin Harvick||508|
|12. Chase Elliott||478|
|13. Jamie McMurray||450|
|14. Denny Hamlin||430|
|15. Joey Logano||398|
|16. Matt Kenseth||398|
Drivers to Watch
It's fitting Busch emerges as the most recent winner of this event thanks to Tony Stewart taking the checkered flag in 2016.
Busch, after all, is one of the hottest topics because he has yet to get hot—by this time last year, he had already pocketed three wins.
This year...not so much. Busch has 510 points to his name by way of five top-five finishes and eight appearances in the top 10. But finishing 38th at the Daytona 500 to start the year had an ominous feel to it, and he's now finished outside the top 10 seven times.
Busch hopes his four road-course wins help him best the field and get back on track this Sunday.
"Sonoma is a place where you can't necessarily run 100 percent every lap," Busch said, per FoxSports.com's Tom Jensen. "You've got to hold yourself back a little because the tire just won't withstand running on it as hard as you can every single lap with the fall-off. The better you can take care of those tires and the more you take care of yourself, then the more you take care of your car."
As fans have seen over the course of the past few seasons, if Busch gets one win, it's usually bad news for the rest of the field.
Come Sunday, the rest of the drivers will have to make sure Busch doesn't beat them at one of his favorite events.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Speaking of notables yet to get a win, one would be remiss to skip over Dale Earnhardt Jr. during his farewell tour.
Earnhardt has just one top-five finish this year and three appearances in the top 10, though this week would be the time to start talking about him getting checkered flag No. 1 of the season.
After all, Earnhardt placed ninth last week in Michigan despite starting 17th, his best finish of the year dating back to mid-April. He's noticed strong cars on road courses as late, per a team statement (h/t NASCAR.com's Kelly Crandall).
"We've had great race cars at the road courses the last few years, which has helped me a lot. Sonoma is the most challenging track that I race at. We've just got to take care of our car and make it through to the end," Earnhardt said.
On its own, Earnhardt getting a win would be great for the sport as he fades into retirement. As a whole, the series seeing yet another driver take a checkered flag would reinforce the success of changes made this year.
It might as well be called the Larson Series right now.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has a series-best 640 points with two wins, three poles and seven top-five finishes. Over his last five races alone, the American has one win and two runner-up finishes.
Larson and his team continue to grab headlines with monster performances, such as this praise from Jeff Gordon, as captured by Fox Sports:
For Larson, last week came as a pleasant surprise.
"I thought we were probably a third- or fourth-place car," he said, per ESPN.com's Bob Pockrass. "To come out a winner, it makes it that much more exciting, I guess. ... For not having the dominant car, to do everything right to get a win today, was special."
Now Larson will look to ride the momentum of another surprise, potentially widening the gap between him and the field.
For the rest of the field, Larson staying hot would be bad news. He finished just outside of the top 10 at this event last year and will go point-hunting with aggressive driving once again this weekend.
Slowly, NASCAR might just have its next big superstar.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.