Kyle Larson wins dogfight at chaotic Sonoma

Kyle Larson wins strategical dogfight at chaotic Sonoma
from Samuel Stubbs, with

Just five days removed from the conclusion of Kyle Larson’s waiver saga, it was back to business for the No. 5 team.

After officially being declared eligible for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs on Tuesday, it appeared the off-track drama surrounding Larson had no effect on his abilities behind the wheel.

Thanks to fresher tires and a car that got better on the long run, Larson maneuvered around Chris Buescher and Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps, driving off into the California sunset at Sonoma Raceway.

The win is Larson’s second at Sonoma and third of the 2024 season. Larson is now tied with Denny Hamlin and Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for the most wins in 2024.

The race also brought more chaos than is usually seen in Wine Country, as the Cup Series tied the track record for cautions (nine) that was set back in 1990.

Several big crashes, such as a pileup in Turn 11 and a crash involving Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson and Michael McDowell took center stage in a race with seven cautions for cause.

Will Brown and Cam Waters, the two Australian Supercar drivers in the field, had issues, as electrical issues that plagued Brown all weekend eventually took him out of the race. Cam Waters also fell victim to mechanical issues, with Brown and Waters finishing 31st and 35th, respectively.

Joe Gibbs Racing also had a less than fortunate day at Sonoma, as Denny Hamlin, who led the regular-season points coming into the day, blew an engine on Lap 2. Hamlin finished last in Sunday’s race, and drops to second in the regular-season standings after 16 races, handing the points lead to Larson.

Ty Gibbs brought out the caution flag on Lap 15, as a flat tire sent the No. 54 car into the wall and out of the race. Martin Truex was rudely greeted by Brown, as the Aussie sent Truex, the 2023 Sonoma winner, around on lap eight, relegating Truex back to 37th.

In an admirable show of perseverance, however, Truex battled all the way back to the lead with nine laps to go, getting around Chris Buescher.

Unfortunately for Truex, Larson’s fresher tires prevailed, and while Truex kept Larson within shouting distance for a few laps, Larson eventually drove off.

For the second straight week in the NASCAR Cup Series, a contender fell just a few drops of gas short of making it to the finish.

While Truex didn’t suffer the unimaginable heartbreak of Ryan Blaney, who ran out of gas while leading on the final lap one week ago in St. Louis, he ran out of fuel from second just a few corners short of the finish, resulting in a 27th place finish and stripping Truex of 25 valuable points.

Instead, it was Michael McDowell who took Truex’s silver medal on Sunday, capitalizing on his fresh tires on the race’s final run. Buescher finished third, while Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.

Road-course ace A.J. Allmendinger finished sixth, with Ryan Blaney making up for his St. Louis defeat by virtue of a seventh-place effort. Stage 1 winner Tyler Reddick finished eighth, with Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland rounding out the top 10.

Other notable finishers include Kyle Busch, who spun on the final lap in 12th, 2022 Sonoma winner Daniel Suarez in 14th, pole-sitter Joey Logano in 21st, St. Louis winner Austin Cindric in 22nd and COTA winner William Byron in 30th.

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