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Larson wins at Sonoma with late-race passes

Written by Sean McKean


Credit - Logan Riely / Getty Images

After battling those on alternate strategies around him, it was Kyle Larson who took victory in Sonoma, California. It was Larson’s third win of the season and second in Sonoma – his home track.


As it unfolded


At the drop of the green flag, polesitter Joey Logano – a driver who desperately needs a good result – got away well ahead of Tyler Reddick.


The theme of this stage, though, would be cautions, and the first of them came out on lap three. As he finished his second lap, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin suffered a terminal engine failure. Subsequently, the oil he left on track saw Todd Gilliland and Kaz Grala hit the barriers. The latter two continued on, but Hamlin retired from the event.


On lap seven, Logano got away well again to retain his lead. But as the run progressed, Reddick’s car began to come alive.


But, another caution came out on lap 16. In turn one, Ty Gibbs suffered a flat right-front tire, which sent him into the concrete wall. This put the 2022 Xfinity champion out of the race.


Under the caution, Joey Logano as well as Ross Chastain decided to pit with the others staying out. This was in an attempt to gain track position when the stage came to an end.


Logano’s strategy went down in flames halfway into the next green flag lap though. On lap 19, Chase Briscoe was spun in the esses. While spinning, he spun into the path of Logano, which shredded the left side of his car. Though everyone sustained big damage, they continued in the race.


Thankfully, the next restart on lap 23 took the field to the end of the stage. Tyler Reddick won it uncontested followed by defending champion Ryan Blaney and 2021 champion Kyle Larson.


The next restart was more of the same: Reddick took a commanding lead followed by Blaney and Larson. However, having pit earlier in the run, Chastain began taking advantage of his tires – quickly carving into the top ten. 


However, this green flag run was interrupted on lap 32. Shortly into the new run, Supercars cameo Will Brown had his electronics shut off. Though he quickly refired, his stationary car made NASCAR throw the yellow yet again.


The lap 35 restart was dramatic before they even reached the line. After spinning his tires, Reddick got away slowly. This resulted in a stack-up through the mid to back-end of the field. No caution was thrown for this, but Daniel Hemric sustained minor damage.


But it only took one more lap for that caution to come out. After reacting to Bubba Wallace going off in the penultimate corner, Josh Berry took evasive action but wasn’t aware of the car to his inside. Subsequently, he couldn’t slow down for the upcoming hairpin – colliding with William Byron, Christopher Bell and Austin Dillon. Everyone drove away from the accident, but Byron sustained a broken toe-link.


The theme continued on lap 40. Reddick kept the lead, but a crash in the back brought out the caution once more half a lap into the run. In the mid-pack, Noah Gragson was tagged and spun around – collecting Austin Cindric and Michael McDowell in the process. Though all three hit the barrier, they each continued on with minimal damage.


A green flag run finally started to play out following the lap 43 restart. Although it looked like Kyle Larson would soon get by Reddick for the lead, the Toyota driver pulled a two-second gap.


With the leading cars yet to pit, this opened the door for Chris Buescher to cycle into the lead. He would then take the stage win followed by Ryan Preece and Martin Truex.


The third stage unfolded more so in typical Sonoma fashion: strategy-based and caution-free. Buescher stayed out to hold the lead on the restart. On lap 68, Buescher and the rest on the alternate strategy pitted, which cycled Larson and Chase Elliott to the top two.


On lap 79, that small group eventually pitted to top off for fuel. This put Buescher back out into the lead with Truex behind – both of which needed to save fuel extensively.


Truex kept Buescher honest, applying consistent pressure throughout the run, but Truex eventually got by to take the lead on lap 102. However, Kyle Larson had caught up to the two ahead of him and thus dispatched of Truex quickly.


It was Kyle Larson who crossed the line to take his third victory of the season. Though Truex had second at the white flag, he ran out of fuel, which gave the spot to Michael McDowell – who took his first top five of the season. Chris Buescher saved enough fuel to cruise to third. Chase Elliott finished another quiet race for him in fourth. Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.


AJ Allmendinger took another top ten in sixth – having done double-duty in Xfinity this weekend. Ryan Blaney’s car faded to seventh in the end as did Tyler Reddick’s in eighth. Christopher Bell was the lone Joe Gibbs car without issues in ninth. Rounding out the top ten was Todd Gilliland.


Catch the next round of NASCAR action next Sunday, as they travel to Iowa Speedway for more short-track racing.


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