Sonoma win puts Larson’s NASCAR title hopes back on track

Kyle Larson is back atop the NASCAR Cup Series point standings two weeks after losing the position due to not competing in the Coca-Cola 600.

Larson was victorious on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway – his third victory of the season – to retake the top spot. He leads Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott by 14 points. In addition to the victory, Larson was aided by the driver who was on the bottom of the result sheet. Denny Hamlin, who led Larson by 21 points entering the weekend, finished last after completing two laps.

“Maybe not so quickly, but, for sure, I thought we would still have a great shot to win the regular season title,” Larson said. “Which there’s still a lot of racing left to be had; I could easily have a couple DNFs here coming up. But I knew after Charlotte, and after seeing how the points shook out, I wasn’t out of it.”


There are 15 playoff points that come with winning the regular season championship. Larson claimed it in 2021 on his way to winning the Cup Series championship.

“(Hamlin’s) misfortune… really helps, but we still just have to stay executing and trying to get great stage points, get race wins,” Larson continued. “Obviously, stage wins. All that. We’ve done a great job executing, so (we) just got to keep that up.”

During his Sonoma winner’s press conference, Larson was reminded of the dynamic of his losing the point in Charlotte and then going a week without knowing if he was still championship-eligible. Through not starting the Coca-Cola 600, Larson did not meet the requirement laid out in the NASCAR Rule Book.

“Are we still talking waivers?” Larson asked.

Larson fell from the point lead to third after Charlotte. He competed in St. Louis, but his championship status was unknown while NASCAR considered the waiver request. In the points report after St. Louis, where Larson gained a spot to sit behind Hamlin, his playoff points were wiped away.

NASCAR granted the waiver on the Tuesday before Sonoma Raceway. Larson’s victory ties him with Hamlin and William Byron for the most in the series, but he now leads the series in playoff points (22 to Hamlin’s 18).

“Literally, my mind never wavered,” Larson said. “It was always focused on executing and winning the regular season points, whether that be on the owner’s side or whatever. My mindset has not changed at all.

“I race to win every single race. I haven’t really thought any differently since missing Charlotte.”

There are 10 races left in the regular season. The playoff field – and all additional bonus points – will be finalized in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 1).

Story originally appeared on Racer