CONCORD, N.C. -- Cliff Daniels sang the highest praises for Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team after the group took charge of the road course at Sonoma Speedway on Sunday.
Daniels and Larson now have won two races in a row for Hendrick Motorsports and have finished no worse than second in the last five events. Daniels said the strength of the entire No. 5 team is what has made them unstoppable over the past several races.
“I probably have to pinch myself just to even believe it,” Daniels said. “Our guys are strong at the shop, our guys are strong at the track, we’re strong on pit road. Our spotters and Tyler (Monn) are doing a great job, and Kyle on the track, man. He’s an animal, and it’s really cool to see.”
The win was monumental in many ways for Daniels and Larson. It marked the first time they earned back-to-back wins after they took the checkered flag at the Charlotte 600 over Memorial Day weekend and it was the first time Larson has won at a road course. He also swept the stages before crossing the finish line first, a feat that had never been accomplished by a NASCAR Cup Series driver at Sonoma.
“You know, I can’t even really say that we expected to be able to do it,” Daniels said. “I know that our team and company are completely capable, but (there were) a lot of unknowns coming into (Sunday), and our team did a great job executing. Kyle did a phenomenal job on the track. What a special day.”
Daniels was paired with Larson at the beginning of the season after the crew chief spent the part of 2019 and all of 2020 with Jimmie Johnson. The duo has been electric throughout the year, posting three wins, four runner-up finishes, nine top-five results and 11 top-10s. Larson also leads the Cup Series field in laps led this season with 1,162 and currently sits second in the rankings, just 47 markers behind the leader.
Teammate Chase Elliott finished behind Larson for the second race in a row. It’s the fourth consecutive week where Hendrick Motorsports teammates have placed in the top two spots, an accomplishment that has only been done one time by Karl Kiekhafer Racing in 1956. Daniels said having Elliott and No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson as teammates has been a huge asset due to their prowess on road courses.
“We’re kind of spoiled – we get to look at their notes and see what they’ve built, see what they’ve learned over the years and figured out how to apply it to Sonoma,” Daniels said. “The last handful of trips here to Sonoma, our cars haven’t been great, and we really buckled down and did a lot of homework, which was cool to see across the whole company. All of our cars ran great (Sunday), and that was really cool to see a 1-2 (finish), which is that much more special.”