NASCAR Sonoma Results: Waiver-Weary Larson Wins

nascar cup series toyotasave mart 350
NASCAR Sonoma Results: Waiver-Weary Larson Wins Meg Oliphant - Getty Images

Chris Buescher, Martin Truex, and Kyle Larson each had something meaningful to shoot for beyond simply winning the NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sunday at Sonoma, Calif.

Buescher wanted to hang onto that last playoff slot. Truex, hounded by those who want to know his plans for 2025, wanted to earn his first victory of the season and earn his fifth at Sonoma Raceway to tie legend Jeff Gordon. And waiver-weary Kyle Larson, desperate to silence the chatter about his playoff prospects following his rain-ruined shot the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double completion, just wanted to get back to racing in his familiar groove.

Larson got his way, catapulting to victory in a wild finish that saw him grab the lead with nine laps to go on the recently repaved and even more demanding 11-turn road course. He maneuvered his No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro for Henrick Motorsports on fresh tires as Buescher fell off and Truex ran out of gas mere yards away from the checkered flag and finished 27th.


Michael McDowell was second, Buescher third, Chase Elliott fourth, and Ross Chastain fifth.

Meanwhile, Larson said. “I didn't know what we were doing, as far as strategy. I was just out there banging laps away, and I don't know. I mean, we study all strategy, but it's like doing homework. I don't really know what I'm looking at.” He said he “got a bit nervous” at the prospect of charging to the front on a messy day of racing that saw eight cautions in the first two stages but a 51-lap stretch that was caution-free but threatened mayhem nonetheless.

Crew Chief Cliff Daniels called Larson to pit for the team’s final stop during a green-flag run in the final stage. He rejoined the field in seventh place and moved into the lead on lap 102.

“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. So thankful that we had enough grip. And Martin never got clear really to where I would get stuck in third. And that really saved the race.”

Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., scored his second career Cup Series victory on the 1.99-mile circuit to give Chevrolet its eighth victory this season, its 14th at Sonoma, and its series-best 859th overall. For Larson it was his 26th in Cup competition and his fifth on a road course, third-most among active drivers.

A rousing cheer from the crowd as he coaxed his Camry across the finish line virtually on fumes might not have been as satisfying as the winner’s taste of Napa Valley wine, but at least it wasn’t all sour grapes for Truex.

Nearly half the field, it seems, had difficulty with the course, spinning out or mowing grass or taking turns too wide, often at the expense of others.

Chastain, driver of the No. 1 Kubota Chevy Camaro, might have spoken for many when he called the race “confusing.” He said, “I’m not sure how the No. 5 (Kyle Larson) won, or how I got back to fifth. I don’t really know.”

nascar cup series toyotasave mart 350
Kyle Busch ran out of fuel on the final lap Sunday. Logan Riely - Getty Images

The Beat – And Beating – Goes On for Kyle Busch

In a 17-day span preceding this race, Richard Childress Racing Chevy driver Kyle Busch had a post-race fight with Ricky Stenhouse, lost a playoff berth with the St. Louis race after Larson spun and sent him into the wall, and crashed this past Tuesday in Goodyear tire testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So he was hoping to record his third Sonoma Raceway victory, secure a playoff spot, and break a 36-race winless streak.

But he’ll have to wait until the series shifts to Iowa Speedway this coming weekend for the Iowa Corn 350 to see if he can extend to 20 years his string of winning at least once every season. Never really a factor Sunday, Busch was heading toward a top-five finish, but after he got together with Ross Chastain on the final lap and then ran out of fuel, he took a 12th-place finish.

nascar cup series toyotasave mart 350
Denny Hamlin brought out the first caution on lap 2 as the engine in his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry let go at the start-finish line.Meg Oliphant - Getty Images

Joe Gibbs Racing Logs Rocky Day at Messy Sonoma NASCAR Cup Race

Joe Gibbs Racing had a rough day Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Points leader Denny Hamlin brought out the first caution on lap 2 as the engine in his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry let go at the start-finish line.

Stuck with a 38th- and last-place finish, Hamlin said he had no warning that engine was about to blow: "Nothing. It’s just the gearing is a little weird for the track. 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.”

His JGR teammate Ty Gibbs was next to exit this this 16th of 36 races. Ty Gibbs damaged the right side of his No. 54 He Gets Us Toyota Camry later in the first stage as he made contact with the Turn 11 wall. His day done with a 37th-place showing, Gibbs said, "I was finding grip down there and was making up time, and then got too close and clipped the wall and hurt the right front.” He said he couldn't tell if his car had been strong before that: "I don’t really know. We needed to make some adjustments to be a little bit tighter, I think, in the sweeping sections – but I just made a mistake and took us out of this day.”

JGR's Martin Truex Jr. slogged through several incidents through the first two caution-marred stages and managed to jump as high as third place toward the end of Stage 2. Truex, seeking a fifth victory at the venue, spun off the course but did not draw a yellow flag in Stage 1. And he nosed through a multi-car tangle on Lap 35. His path went from 21st down to 37th up to 15th, back to 28th, then ninth and third through the first two stages.

That Lap 35 jam collected Christopher Bell, Josh Berry, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, and Cam Waters.

With seven laps remaining in the first stage, St. Louis winner Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in an incident that made this the first segment with the most cautions for a Cup Series road-course event.

Tyler Reddick won the segment for his third stage victory of the season, and Chris Buescher led at the end of Stage 2. He would struggle the rest of the way and was forced to settle for 8th.

Truex nearly staged a great rebound. He was second to Chris Buescher with just over 10 laps to go. He took the lead with 9 to go, but Larson was too strong and muscled past soon after. On the final lap it looked as though Truex would at least finish second. But coming around the final corner his Toyota ran out of fuel and he slowed to a crawl. Using the starter motor in his car he was able to bump it across the line but was scored 27ththe last car on the lead lap.

“It was a tough day,” Truex said. “Got spun out early and had to work hard to get some track position back. James (crew chief Small) did a good job on our strategy. Our car was pretty good out front. Thought we were going to have a shot to win there and just couldn’t quite get by the 17 (Chris Buescher) quick enough. I finally cleared him; I made a mistake and the 5 (Larson) was right there to pounce.

“And then obviously ran out of gas, so it didn’t matter. I’m not sure why we didn’t try to save a little at the end. I was clearly not going to catch the 5 or pass him. It’s a shame that we went around the last corner and went from second to wherever we finished,” he said. “It sucks, but it was a tough day, and we had a good car. We battled and did a good job. We were going to have a good day... but just one corner short.”

Christopher Bell was the highest finishing among the four, he came home 8th.

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Toyota / Save Mart 350

Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma, California

Sunday, June 9, 2024

1. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 110.

2. (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, 110.

3. (26) Chris Buescher, Ford, 110.

4. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 110.

5. (9) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 110.

6. (11) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 110.

7. (3) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 110.

8. (2) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 110.

9. (15) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 110.

10. (14) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 110.

11. (17) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 110.

12. (29) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 110.

13. (35) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110.

14. (7) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 110.

15. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 110.

16. (20) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 110.

17. (13) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 110.

18. (30) Ryan Preece, Ford, 110.

19. (38) Erik Jones, Toyota, 110.

20. (18) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 110.

21. (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 110.

22. (28) Austin Cindric, Ford, 110.

23. (36) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 110.

24. (33) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 110.

25. (22) Harrison Burton, Ford, 110.

26. (19) Noah Gragson, Ford, 110.

27. (21) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 110.

28. (34) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 109.

29. (37) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 109.

30. (6) William Byron, Chevrolet, 108.

31. (24) Will Brown, Chevrolet, 107.

32. (32) Josh Berry #, Ford, Suspension, 95.

33. (27) Justin Haley, Ford, Steering, 88.

34. (23) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Transmission, 73.

35. (31) Cam Waters, Ford, Accident, 66.

36. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, DVP, 39.

37. (10) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, DVP, 16.

38. (25) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Engine, 2.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 74.526 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.258 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 22 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Logano 1-16;T. Reddick 17-33;R. Blaney 34;T. Reddick 35-52;C. Buescher 53-67;A. Allmendinger(i) 68-70;K. Larson 71-80;C. Elliott 81-83;C. Buescher 84-100;M. Truex Jr. 101;K. Larson 102-110;K. Busch 111.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Tyler Reddick 2 times for 35 laps; Chris Buescher 2 times for 32 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 19 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 16 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 3 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,12,5,9,48,34,1,99,7,38

Stage #2 Top Ten: 17,41,19,8,16,6,43,38,22,21