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Kyle Larson Marches Through the Field to Score Sonoma Victory

Photo Credit: Brian Smith, TobyChristie.com

With all this waiver business finally behind him, Kyle Larson is focused on racking up the Playoff Points and winning the regular-season championship.

That’s exactly what the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion accomplished in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, picking up his third victory of the season and the 26th of his career.

Starting the race’s final stage outside the top-20, the Hendrick Motorsports driver had to make a major charge through the pack, putting himself and the No. 5 team in position to pounce on those with older tires.

Leaving the pits with four sticker tires and 30 laps remaining in Sunday’s 110-lap event, Larson trailed then-race-leader, Chris Buescher, by more than eight seconds and sat at the back half of the top-10.

The 2024 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of The Year would methodically work his way through traffic during the final stint of the race, while at the same time closing the gap between himself and the race leaders.

With nine laps to go, Chris Buescher made a small mistake in Turn 10, allowing Martin Truex, Jr. to pounce on the RFK Racing Ford and take over the race lead. That lasted about five corners when the No. 19 slipped off of Turn 4 and allowed Larson to get out front.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver successfully hung within a second of Larson for a couple of laps, but would eventually fade further behind, and in the race’s final moments, run out of gas, finishing 27th.

Larson made it to the start-finish line before a caution was displayed for the stopped Martin Truex, Jr. and did so 4.258 seconds ahead of Michael McDowell, the runner-up.

“Yeah, I didn’t know what we were doing as far as strategy. I was just out there banging laps away. I don’t know, we study all the strategy, but it’s like doing homework. I don’t really know what I’m looking at. Yeah, I was like these guys are going to have to pit another time maybe,” said Larson about the strategy. “Then we said we had to go race and pass these guys, I got a bit nervous. I knew I’d be quick from the get-go but I thought once the tires would come up to temp it would even off too much.

The strategy provided an interesting element in Sunday’s event at Sonoma, as a record-tying nine cautions were displayed throughout the event, allowing drivers and teams to have several different possibilities as far as when to hit the pit road. That ultimately caused the running order to shuffle quite often.

McDowell, who made a valiant effort to close the gap between himself and the leaders in the final laps, ended up in second, after the No. 19 ran out of gas on the final lap.

Chris Buescher, who led the majority of the race’s final 30 laps, had to settle for a third-place finish, another strong run for the RFK Racing team on the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, California.

Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain, who played the same strategy as race-winner Kyle Larson, rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth. Chastain, who had a strong car all afternoon, got fifth after last-lap contact with kyle Busch, who ended up 12th.

AJ Allmendinger brought home a respectable sixth-place finish for Kaulig Racing this afternoon while defending champion Ryan Blaney was in seventh. After leading a race-high 35 laps, Tyler Reddick could only rebound to finish eighth.

Christopher Bell managed to bring home a top-10 result, in ninth, after being involved in a 10-car pileup in the middle stages of the event. Todd Gilliland, driving for Front Row Motorsports, rounded out the top-10.

Bell was the only entry from Joe Gibbs Racing to finish inside the top-10 after the team had a dismal afternoon that saw Denny Hamlin blow an engine on the third lap of the race, and Ty Gibbs crash into the wall early.

Leaving Sonoma, the coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series switches from FOX to NBC, as the series heads to the inaugural event at Iowa Speedway.

Despite not collecting points in the Coca-Cola 600, Kyle Larson leads the regular-season standings by 14 markers over Chase Elliott. Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, and Martin Truex, Jr. complete the top five.

Race Results: NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

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