Kyle Larson Secures Victory at Sonoma with Late-Race Surge

Kyle Larson Secures Victory at Sonoma with Late-Race Surge
Kyle Larson Secures Victory at Sonoma with Late-Race Surge

Hometown hero Kyle Larson made a thrilling pass for the lead with eight laps remaining, securing his second victory at the Sonoma Raceway road course in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Toyota/Save Mart 350. This marks his third win of the season.

The race began with a chaotic start on the newly repaved 1.99-mile course in Northern California, featuring seven caution flags before the halfway point. These cautions outnumbered those in the previous two Sonoma races combined.

However, the final 51 laps ran without interruption, with pit-stop strategies playing a crucial role in determining track position. Hendrick Motorsports driver Larson, who hails from Elk Grove, California, pitted late, emerging in eighth place with 20 laps to go. He then methodically worked his way through the field, overtaking one or two cars at a time.

Larson ultimately positioned his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the lead after a dramatic three-way battle with four-time Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr. and Chris Buescher. Truex kept close to Larson until he ran out of gas on the final corner, coming to a stop just short of the finish line and limping across in 27th place.

“I didn’t know what we were doing as far as strategy,” Larson said. “I was just out there banging laps away. So I was like, these guys have to pit another time maybe but then when they said I had to go race and then pass those guys, I got a bit nervous. I knew I’d be quick from the get-go but thought once the tires came up to temp it would even off too much. Thankful we had enough grip. Thankful too, those guys got racing and Martin never got clear really to where I’d be stuck in third. Just an awesome, awesome race.”

Michael McDowell of Front Row Motorsports benefited from Truex’s misfortune, finishing second, 4.258 seconds behind Larson. Buescher finished third in his No. 17 RFK Racing Ford, followed by Hendrick’s Chase Elliott and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain. Chastain’s collision with Kyle Busch on the last lap sent Busch off track, dropping him from a likely top-10 finish to 12th place.

“Proud of everybody,” Buescher said of his 32 laps led and Stage 2 win despite starting the race 26th. “That was a good one to be close and in the hunt. Kind of a tough weekend until today. If you had told us we’d gather some playoff and stage points, we’d be happy. Just needed a bit more coming to the finish line.”

AJ Allmendinger finished sixth, followed by Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Todd Gilliland, who secured his second top-10 finish of the season.

Polesitter Joey Logano finished 21st. The two Australian Supercar Series drivers making their NASCAR debuts, Will Brown and Cam Waters, finished 31st and 35th, respectively.

Larson’s win catapults him to the championship lead, 14 points ahead of his teammate Elliott. This victory follows news of Larson receiving a playoff waiver from NASCAR after missing the Coca-Cola 600 due to competing in the Indianapolis 500, where weather delays thwarted his attempt to run both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

The race was also a setback for Denny Hamlin, whose engine failure after just two laps left him last in the field, dropping him to third in the standings, 26 points behind Larson.

“No [warning], it’s just the gearing is a little weird for the track,” said Hamlin, who snapped a five-race streak of top-five finishes. “It’s a lot of high-end RPM stuff, but the same as everyone else and I’m just not really sure. They’ll look at it and figure it out, but certainly not ideal.”

Hamlin’s teammate Ty Gibbs exited the race after 14 laps due to hitting the Turn 11 wall, damaging his car and sending it into the Turn 1 barrier.

The Cup Series’ next race is the Iowa Corn 350, set for next Sunday (7 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Iowa Speedway. The event marks the Cup Series’ debut at the 0.875-mile oval in the Hawkeye State.

Note: Post-race inspection at Sonoma Raceway confirmed Larson’s victory, with no cars selected for further inspection at the NASCAR Research & Development Center.

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