NAS: Kyle Larson takes checkered flag at Sonoma road course

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Kyle Larson’s good week only got better on Sunday in his home state.

Days after receiving a waiver from NASCAR allowing him to race for a championship, the Hendrick Motorsports driver won for the second time in the past four races, claiming the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Cup Series road-course event at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

The Elk Grove, Calif., native notched his third win of 2024 and 26th of his career by passing Martin Truex Jr. with nine laps to go after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had just taken the lead from Chris Buescher. Truex had recovered from a Lap 8 spin at the beginning of the series’ 16th race.

In a full green-flag run after Stage 2 ended on Lap 60, Larson pitted with 29 circuits left and used 13-lap fresher tires to run down Buescher and Truex, taking advantage of the latter’s mistake in the closing laps.

“I was thankful (Buescher and Truex) got racing and Martin never got clear and I’d be stuck in third,” said Larson, who also won at Sonoma in 2021 and gave Hendrick its series-best eighth win at the twisty track. “I was hoping (Truex) didn’t have anyone to judge off (in the apex). I had a big run.”

The last lap featured Truex running out of gas and Kyle Busch (12th-place finish) getting turned by Ross Chastain while racing in the top five.

“I finally cleared (Buescher),” said Truex, who ended up 27th. “I made a mistake, and (Larson) was right there to pounce and then obviously ran out of gas so it didn’t matter.”

Michael McDowell, Buescher, Chase Elliott and Chastain rounded out the final five positions.

To open the second road race of 2024 and 34th all-time at the Napa Valley track, polesitter Joey Logano led before seeing the initial yellow fly for Denny Hamlin after his engine expired, the first of multiple bad incidents for JGR.

After William Byron ran off the course in Turn 1 and came to pit road with tire problems, Ty Gibbs became JGR’s third driver to have issues when he smacked the Turn 1 wall on Lap 15 to force the second caution period.

After giving up the lead to pit, Logano restarted 21st and was involved in the third caution on Lap 19 when the spinning car of Chase Briscoe banged into the pole winner’s No. 22 Ford and had it hit again by Harrison Burton.

Tyler Reddick beat Ryan Blaney on a restart and crept away from the defending series champion to win the 25-lap first stage by 0.451 seconds, his third segment win this season.

A melee occurred in Turn 11 on Lap 36 when Josh Berry blocked Erik Jones. The cars of Truex, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Byron, Cam Waters and Christopher Bell were involved.

On the restart, last Sunday’s winner Austin Cindric, McDowell and Noah Gragson spun off the repaved track at high speed for the seventh yellow.

Buescher, who had pitted earlier, took the lead from Reddick and claimed his second stage win by beating Ryan Preece.

–Field Level Media

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