Larson plays tactics right in Sonoma win

A different pit strategy and having to march through the field were no problem for Kyle Larson at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.

Larson cycled out ninth after making his final pit stop — from the lead — with 30 laps to go. When the pit cycle was complete, Larson was in sixth place and over six seconds behind the race leader.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver made the winning pass with nine laps to go. Larson erased the deficit to Chris Buescher and Martin Truex Jr. and passed Truex a few corners after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had finally overtaken Buescher.

Larson led 19 laps on his way to his third win of the season in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. It’s his second win at Sonoma Raceway and the 26th of his Cup Series career.


“I didn’t know what we were doing as far as strategy; I was just out there banging laps away,” Larson said. “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. So, I was like, ‘Well, these guys are going to have to pit another time, maybe.’ Then we had to go race and pass those guys. I got a bit nervous; I knew I’d be quick from the get-go, but I thought when the tires would come up to (temperature), it even off too much.

“Thankful that we had enough grip. Thankful, too that those guys got racing and Martin never got clear to where I would get stuck in third, and that really saved the race. I thought, too, once he got the lead that, man, I hope he doesn’t have someone to judge off here into (Turn) 4 and misses his apex, and sure enough, he did, and I had a big run. Just an awesome, awesome race car.”

Michael McDowell finished second after overtaking Truex on the final lap as Truex ran out of fuel. He’d previously passed Buescher, who faded, potentially with a tire coming apart, in the final laps. Buescher finished third after winning the first stage and led 32 laps.

Chase Elliott finished fourth and Ross Chastain finished fifth. AJ Allmendinger finished sixth, Ryan Blaney finished seventh, Tyler Reddick finished eighth, Christopher Bell finished ninth and Todd Gilliland finished 10th.

Reddick led the most laps (35) and won the first stage, but he could not make his way back through the field like Larson. Both drivers were on similar strategies, but Reddick used up his tires when fighting Larson after making his final pit stop on lap 53.

Polesitter Joey Logano finished 21st. Logano led the first 16 laps and then made a pit stop when the caution came out. The strategy put Logano at the rear of the field, where he was collected in a multi-car incident on lap 19, which damaged his Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

Truex finished 27th. Truex’s Toyota Camry ran out of fuel and slowly coasted to the finish line. He was the last car on the lead lap.

The final stage went caution-free after the first two stages were marred with incidents. There were eight cautions in the first two stages, accounting for 22 laps.

Will Brown finished 31st in his Cup Series debut after battling electrical issues with his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Cam Waters finished 35th in his debut with RFK Racing. Waters was collected in a multi-car incident in Turn 11 when Josh Berry slid into the corner on lap 35.

The first driver out of the race was Denny Hamlin, who finished last. Hamlin blew an engine in his Toyota Camry on lap 3.

There were 11 lead changes among nine drivers throughout Sunday’s race.


Story originally appeared on Racer