Larson executes late pit strategy for a wild Cup victory at Sonoma

After enduring an up-and-down process in his attempted double duty attempt in May, Kyle Larson rose to the occasion with a strategic NASCAR Cup Series victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 9.

The 2021 Cup Series champion from Elk Grove, California, led twice for 19 of 110 scheduled laps in an event where he dodged a series of on-track carnages within the first two stage periods. With pit strategies ensuing amongst every team and competitor throughout the event, Larson’s key path to victory occurred with 30 laps remaining as he pitted under green after leading the previous 10 laps. Returning to the track with fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, Larson then spent the next 21 laps carving his way back towards the front, where he would gain ground on the leaders Chris Buescher and Martin Truex Jr., both of whom pitted 13 laps earlier than Larson.

Then with nine laps remaining, Larson took advantage of both Buescher and Truex dueling each other for the lead through Turn 12 and Truex missing the Chute’s entrance turn moments after he assumed a brief lead to overtake both and reassume the top spot. Having the clean air to his advantage while stretching it, Larson was able to pace his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry smoothly around Sonoma’s 12-turn circuit for the final eight laps before he crossed the finish line in first place for his third Cup Series victory of the 2024 season and his second at his home track.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, June 8, Joey Logano notched his third Cup pole position of the 2024 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 97.771 mph in 73.273 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Tyler Reddick, who posted the second-fastest qualifying lap at 97.661 mph in 73.356 seconds.

When the green flag waved and the event commenced, Joey Logano launched his No. 22 AutoTrader Ford Mustang Dark Horse entry ahead of the field through the uphill first turn before he led the way through the second turn, a pair of Turns from 3 to 3A and the Chute between Turns 4 and 7 as Tyler Reddick battled and fended off Ryan Blaney to retain second place. As the field proceeded to navigate through the Esses before making the sharp, right-hand turn in Turn 11 and back to the start/finish line in Turn 12, Logano proceeded to lead the first lap as Reddick, Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and William Byron followed suit in the top six.

Just past the second lap, the event’s first caution flew for fluid on the course after Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry XSE went up in a billow of smoke just past the frontstretch, where he would manage to nurse his car through the uphill first turn before he parked his car in Turn 2 and became the first retiree of the event.

During the event’s first caution period, select names including Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Hemric and Kaz Grala pitted while the rest led by Logano remained on the track. John Hunter Nemechek would also pit for repairs to his No. 42 Save Mart Toyota Camry XSE entry after he scrubbed the wall in Turn 1 due to slipping into Hamlin’s oil spill.

Following an extensive cleanup on the track due to Hamlin’s oil spill and a blown engine, the event restarted under green on the sixth lap. At the start, Logano fended off teammate Blaney to retain the lead through the first three turns while Reddick was able to overtake and reassume the runner-up spot from Blaney. As the field fanned out through the Chute before entering the Esses, including a series of right- and left-hand turns, Logano maintained a steady advantage over teammate Blaney and Reddick as Elliott, Larson and Daniel Suarez followed suit. Behind, Byron dropped to seventh as Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman and AJ Allmendinger were in the top 10.

The following lap, Martin Truex Jr., who was in 18th, spun in Turn 2 after he got turned by Will Brown. Not long after, Ross Chastain got loose and drove his No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 sideways off the dirt course in Turn 8A while he was in eighth place. Amid both incidents, the event remained under green flag conditions as Logano was leading by nearly half a second over Reddick and more than a second over teammate Blaney.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Logano continued to lead by nearly four-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Reddick followed by Blaney, Elliott and Larson while Suarez, Byron, Bowman, AJ Allmendinger and Michael McDowell were running in the top 10. Behind, Ty Gibbs occupied 11th place ahead of Christopher Bell, rookie Carson Hocevar, Todd Gilliland and Corey LaJoie as Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Will Brown, Noah Gragson and Austin Dillon occupied the top-20 spots ahead of Chase Briscoe, Austin Cidnric, rookie Zane Smith, Kyle Busch and Ryan Preece. Meanwhile, Chris Buescher was 27th ahead of Cam Waters, Erik Jones was mired in 30th in between rookie Josh Berry and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski was back in 33rd place ahead of Daniel Hemric and Truex was down in 37th behind John Hunter Nemechek.

Five laps later and with a series of battles ensuing around the circuit, the event’s second caution flew after Ty Gibbs, who was running in the top 10, hit the newly installed concrete walls in Turn 11, which broke his right front hub before he proceeded to drive through Turn 12 and slap the outside wall entering Turn 1, which left Gibbs with more right-side damage to his No. 54 He Gets Us Toyota Camry XSE entry. At the time of the caution, Logano maintained the lead by two-tenths of a second over Reddick while Blaney, Elliott and Larson continued to race in the top five. In addition, Byron, who went off the course in Turn 1, had pitted under green to address concerns of a loose wheel to his No. 24 RAPTOR Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry.

During the caution period and with pit strategy amongst the field ensuing, some led by Logano and including Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Preece, Zane Smith, Cam Waters, Berry, Erik Jones, Hemric, Justin Haley and Grala pitted while the rest led by Reddick remained on the track.

As the event restarted under green on Lap 18, Reddick launched his No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota Camry XSE ahead of Blaney and the field with the lead through the uphill first turn before navigating through the following three turns and the Chute. With the field fanning out and jostling for spots approaching the Esses, the caution quickly returned after Chase Briscoe, who was running in the top 15, got turned in Turn 8A, where he was clipped by Logano, who bumped Stenhouse and sent him for a spin, as Logano, who shredded the rear of Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang Dark Horse entry, spun off and back onto the course through Turn 8 before he was hit in the rear by Harrison Burton, leaving all four competitors with damage to their respective entries.

Amid the caution period, select names including Bell, Will Brown, Buescher, Byron, Keselowski, Preece and Haley pitted while the rest led by Reddick remained on the track.

The event re-started under green with three laps remaining in the first stage period. At the start, Reddick and Blaney dueled for the lead through the first three turns before Reddick managed to muscle ahead entering Turn 3A and the Chute. As Reddick led Blaney, Larson, Elliott and Bowman through the Esses before Turn 11, McDowell was in sixth while Trackhouse Racing’s Suarez and Chastain battled for seventh place. In addition, LaJoie and Gilliland battled for ninth place ahead of Hocevar, Wallace and Gragson while Cindric and Allmendinger trailed in the top 15.

When the first stage period concluded on Lap 25, Reddick captured his third Cup stage victory of the 2024 season. Blaney followed suit in second along with Larson, Elliott, Bowman and McDowell, respectively, while Chastain edged teammate Suarez to grab seventh place. LaJoie and Gilliland would round out the top 10 at the first stage’s conclusion.

Under the stage break, some including Kyle Busch, Truex, Preece, Hemric, Allmendinger, Logano, Haley, Stenhouse, Grala and Harrison Burton pitted while the rest led by Reddick remained on the track.

The second stage period started on Lap 29 as Reddick and Blaney occupied the front row. At the start, Reddick and Blaney dueled for the lead through the uphill first turn and through Turn 2 before Reddick launched ahead entering Turn 3A. With Reddick leading through the Chute, Elliott tried to make a move to Blaney’s outside entering Turn 7, but he got loose amid light contact with Blaney. This allowed Larson to assume third place from teammate Elliott while Chastain trailed in fifth place through the Esses.

During the Lap 30 mark, Austin Cindric nearly flipped as he spun his No. 2 America’s Tire Ford Mustang Dark Horse sideways off the course and through the uphill turn in the dirt entering Turn 2, but he managed to proceed without drawing a caution. Two laps later, however, the caution returned after Will Brown, who was battling electrical issues to his No. 33 Mobile X/Shaw and Partners Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry, parked his car off the course in Turn 11 due to a potential engine issue that resulted in him falling off the pace entering Turn 11. At the time of caution, Reddick was leading ahead of Blaney, Larson, Elliott and Chastain.

As the event restarted under green on Lap 34 amid a stacked restart, Reddick and Blaney dueled amid close-quarters racing through the first four turns before Reddick managed to maintain the top spot and clear Blaney prior to entering the Chute. Meanwhile, Larson bumped and overtook Blaney for the runner-up spot entering the Esses while Chastain, Elliott, Gilliland and Bowman followed suit.

Shortly after, more on-track issues ensued as Bubba Wallace, who was running in the top 10, slipped his No. 23 Columbia Toyota Camry XSE off the course and kicked up dirt in Turn 11. While Wallace recovered despite losing a handful of spots as the field stacked up, trouble ignited in front of him as Josh Berry got bumped and turned into the concrete walls by Erik Jones in Turn 11, which resulted in Berry locking up the tires and going dead straight into Bell, Truex, Byron and Dillon, as all but Truex spun. Cam Waters was also collected in the carnage while the rest of the field in the mid-pack region scattered and jammed on the brakes to avoid the carnage. The carnage drew the event back into a caution period as Reddick retained the race lead.

With the event restarting under green on Lap 39, Reddick retained the lead from Larson, Blaney and Chastain through the first four turns and the Chute, with Chastain bumping and battling Blaney for third place. Then through the Esses, the caution quickly returned after Austin Cindric got Noah Gragson sideways in Turn 8A, where Gragson then clipped Cindric and sent both into the tire barriers as McDowell was also sent into the tire barriers after getting caught in a mid-pack stack-up.

The start of the next restart period on Lap 42 featured Reddick muscling away from Larson to retain the lead as Chastain moved into third place from Blaney. While Bowman and Suarez rubbed fenders while battling for fifth place in front of Elliott before entering the Esses, Reddick kept his No. 45 entry racing in front of Larson to retain the lead during the ensuing lap while the rest of the field behind jostled for spots. By then, Austin Dillon took his No. 3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry to the garage.

Through the Lap 45 mark, Reddick was leading by six-tenths of a second over Larson while third-place Chastain trailed by nearly two seconds. Behind, Blaney and Bowman trailed in the top five while Suarez, Elliott, Buescher, Preece and Busch followed suit in the top 10 ahead of Truex, Allmendinger, Erik Jones, Zane Smith and Keselowski. Meanwhile, Logano, Burton, Gilliland, Stenhouse and Hemric were racing in the top 20 ahead of Hocevar, Cam Waters, Haley, Bell and Briscoe as Wallace, LaJoie, Grala, McDowell, Gragson and Byron were mired in the top 31.

At the Lap 50 mark, Reddick extended his advantage to two seconds over Larson while Blaney, who overtook Chastain for third place a few laps earlier, trailed by three seconds. With Chastain settling in fourth, Bowman retained fifth while Elliott overtook Suarez for sixth place.

A lap later, Blaney pitted his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang Dark Horse entry under green along with Elliott and Suarez. Larson would pit his No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry during the following lap along with teammate Bowman, Chastain, and rookie Zane Smith before Reddick, the only competitor who has yet to pit, surrendered the lead to pit by Lap 53. Reddick’s pit stop moved Chris Buescher into the lead as he was followed by Preece, Truex, Busch and Allmendinger.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 55, which marked the event’s halfway point, Buescher captured his second Cup stage victory of the 2024 season. Preece followed suit in second along with Truex, Busch and Allmendinger while Keselowski, Erik Jones, Gilliland, Logano and Burton were scored in the top 10. By then, a bevy of front-runners that included Larson, Chastain, Byron, Reddick, Blaney, Elliott, Suarez and Bowman were mired outside the top 25, with Reddick locking up his front tires and going off the course before entering the Chute after he made contact with Larson just after completing his green flag pit service.

With 51 laps remaining, where the entire lead lap field remained on the track, the final stage commenced as Buescher and Preece occupied the front row. At the start, Buescher launched ahead from the outside lane and retained the lead through the course’s first four turns before navigating his way through the Chute. Behind, Truex overtook Preece for the runner-up spot while Allmendinger and Busch battled for fourth place in front of Nemechek and Keselowski. With the field navigating through the various turns through the Esses, Buescher was leading by nearly a second over Truex with 50 laps remaining.

Shortly after, Preece, who was trying to battle Truex for the runner-up spot, slipped sideways and spun his No. 41 Caymus Vineyards Ford Mustang Dark Horse off the course in Turn 7, but the event remained under green as Preece dropped out of the top-10 running order. Meanwhile, Larson, who carved his way into the top 20, was trying to weave his way back to the front amid a series of jostles and on-track contact in the middle of the pack. Other front-runners mired in the mid-pack region with Larson included teammate Elliott, Chastain, Suarez, Reddick and Bowman while Buescher stabilized his advantage to nearly two seconds over Truex.

With 43 laps remaining, the leader Buescher along with Truex, Busch, McDowell, Logano, Preece, Bowman, Wallace and Burton pitted their respective entries under green. More names including Gilliland, Erik Jones, Haley, Bell, Reddick and Berry pitted over the next two laps before Hocevar, Hemric and Suarez pitted with 40 laps remaining. By then, Allmendinger, who assumed the lead when Buescher pitted, was leading ahead of Larson, Stenhouse, Chastain and Elliott. Once Allmendinger pitted his No. 16 Cirkul Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry along with Chastain with 39 laps remaining, Larson cycled into the lead.

Down to the final 35 laps of the event, Larson was leading by four seconds over teammate Elliott as LaJoie, Blaney and Grala trailed as far as 18 seconds in the top five. Behind, Buescher, the first competitor with four fresh tires and fuel, trailed by 18 seconds in sixth place while Truex, Busch, Allmendinger and McDowell were racing in the top 10 ahead of Keselowski, Gilliland, Chastain, Reddick, Erik Jones, Bell, Cindric, Suarez, Bowman and Haley.

Five laps later, the top-four competitors led by Larson and including teammate Elliott, LaJoie and Blaney continued to run on the track, though all have yet to make another pit stop, while Buescher trailed the four leaders by 20 seconds in fifth place. Meanwhile, Truex continued to trail the lead by 22 seconds in sixth place as Busch, Allmendinger, McDowell and Keselowski were in the top 10. Behind, Reddick, who was still trying to carve his way back to the front, was mired in 13th in between Chastain and Bell, Suarez was in 15th and Bowman was in 18th.

Not long after, Larson surrendered the lead to pit under green as teammate Elliott moved into the lead. Third-place Blaney pitted under green with 27 laps remaining before Elliott and LaJoie pitted during the following lap. Amid the pit stops, Buescher cycled his No. 17 Ford Mustang Dark Horse entry into the lead as Truex, Busch, Allmendinger and McDowell all cycled into the top five while Larson cycled his way back to sixth place.

With 20 laps remaining, Buescher stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Truex while third-place Busch trailed by four seconds. Meanwhile, Larson, who was locked in a heated three-way battle with McDowell and Allmendinger three laps earlier, trailed in fourth place by less than six seconds while McDowell and Allmendinger followed suit in fifth and sixth, respectively. In addition, Chastain was in seventh ahead of Gilliland, Elliott and Keselowski while Reddick, Bell, Suarez, Blaney, LaJoie and Bowman trailed in the top 16.

Over the next handful of laps, Truex started to close in on Buescher for the lead as he cut the deficit as close to half a second. At the same time, Larson, who overtook Busch for third place, ignited his pursuit on the two leaders, with Larson having fresher tires than both Buescher and Truex, as he trailed both by four seconds. Despite having two series champions intimidating him through distinct approaches, Buescher continued to lead by half a second with 15 laps remaining.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, the top three competitors were separated by eight-tenths of a second as Buescher retained the lead by three-tenths of a second over Truex while Larson, who now has the top two leaders close in front of his windshield, was trying to navigate his way around Truex for the runner-up spot. Behind, McDowell trailed in fourth place by four seconds while Busch trailed in fifth place by six seconds.

Then approaching the final nine laps of the event, Truex attempted to stick his front nose beneath Buescher entering Turn 11 as Buescher missed his marks. Despite squeezing his way underneath Buescher through the turn, Buescher refused to surrender as he rubbed dead even with Truex through Turn 12. This allowed Larson to close in even more as Truex was able to overtake Buescher to move his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry XSE entry into the lead in Turn 2. Larson, however, also overtook Buescher for the runner-up spot through Turn 2 as he pursued Truex for the lead. Then entering the Chute, Truex went wide after he missed his marked turn, which allowed Larson to make his move beneath Truex in Turn 7 as he assumed the lead. Larson would proceed to lead by two-tenths of a second over Truex while Buescher trailed in third place by a second.

With five laps remaining, Larson started to stretch his advantage as he was leading by eight-tenths of a second while third-place Buescher trailed by more than two seconds. Behind, McDowell started to close in on Buescher in his late attempt for third place while Busch trailed in fifth place by six seconds. Another lap later, McDowell, who radioed a potential flat tire to his No. 34 Love’s Travel Stop Ford Mustang Dark Horse entry, overtook Buescher for third place as Chastain, Elliott, Allmendinger, Blaney and Reddick trailed in the top 10.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Larson remained as the leader while extending it to two seconds over Truex. As Chastain and Busch tangled for fifth place entering the Chute, Larson was able to cruise his No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry smoothly around the 12-turn Sonoma circuit for a final time before he navigated his way back to Turn 12 and across the finish line to claim the checkered flag for his third Cup victory of the 2024 season and by four seconds.

With the victory, Larson, a product of Elk Grove, California, notched his 26th career win in NASCAR’s premier series, his second at Sonoma and his first since 2021. He also joined teammate William Byron and Denny Hamlin as competitors to notch three victories during the first 16 events of the 2024 schedule as the 2024 Sonoma victory marked the eighth of the season for the Chevrolet nameplate and the sixth for Hendrick Motorsports. The Sonoma victory marks Larson’s 20th driving the No. 5 Chevrolet entry for Hendrick Motorsports.

Larson’s Sonoma victory also occurred five days after he was granted a waiver to make the 2024 Cup Series Playoffs. The waiver occurred due to Larson missing the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after on-track precipitations between both the Coke 600 and the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway spoiled his attempt to complete the Memorial Day “Double”, where he opted to start the Indy 500 and was unable to register a lap for the Coke 600 with the event being shortened and as Xfinity Series veteran Justin Allgaier filled in for Larson’s Cup Series efforts.  

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 09: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 09, 2024 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images).

“I didn’t know what we were like doing as far as strategy,” Larson said on FOX. “I was just out there banging laps away. We studied all the strategies, but it’s like doing homework. I don’t really know what I’m looking at. I was like, ‘Well, [Buescher and Truex] have to pit another time, maybe.’ Then [the team] said 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 once the tires would come up to [track temperature], it would even off too much. Thankful that we had enough grip. Thankful too that those guys got racing and Martin [Truex Jr.] never got clear really where I would get stuck in third. That really saved the race…just an awesome, awesome race car. Cool to win at home. [I’ll] Drink some wine here in a little bit and go celebrate.”

As Larson celebrated his Sonoma victory both on the frontstretch and in Victory Lane towards the circuit’s dragstrip, Truex, who was losing steady ground of Larson during the final lap, had his hopes of posting a strong runner-up finish spoiled after he ran out of fuel approaching the final stretch to the finish line. Truex’s misfortune allowed Michael McDowell to claim the runner-up spot while Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain finished in the top five.

As AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland finished in the top 10, Kyle Busch nursed his No. 8 zone Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry to a 12th-place result following his last-lap spin from Chastain, where he also ran out of fuel approaching the finish line. Truex ended up in 27th place as he struggled to coast his entry across the finish line to finish the race, drawing a caution as the event concluded.

There were 10 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 20 laps. In addition, 27 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the 16th event of the 2024 Cup Series season, Kyle Larson reassumes the lead in the regular-season standings following his Sonoma victory and he leads by 14 points over teammate Chase Elliott, 26 over Denny Hamlin, 49 over Tyler Reddick and 53 over Martin Truex Jr.


1. Kyle Larson, 19 laps led

2. Michael McDowell

3. Chris Buescher, 32 laps led, Stage 2 winner

4. Chase Elliott, three laps led

5. Ross Chastain

6. AJ Allmendinger, three laps led

7. Ryan Blaney, one lap led

8. Tyler Reddick, 35 laps led, Stage 1 winner

9. Christopher Bell

10. Todd Gilliland

11. Corey LaJoie

12. Kyle Busch, one lap led

13. Brad Keselowski

14. Daniel Suarez

15. Alex Bowman

16. Zane Smith

17. Carson Hocevar

18. Ryan Preece

19. Erik Jones

20. Bubba Wallace

21. Joey Logano, 16 laps led

22. Austin Cindric

23. Kaz Grala

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25. Harrison Burton

26. Noah Gragson

27. Martin Truex Jr., one lap led

28. Daniel Hemric, one lap down

29. John Hunter Nemechek, one lap down

30. William Byron, two laps down

31. Will Brown, three laps down

32. Josh Berry – OUT, Suspension

33. Justin Haley – OUT, Steering

34. Chase Briscoe – OUT, Transmission

35. Cam Waters – OUT, Accident

36. Austin Dillon – OUT, DVP

37. Ty Gibbs – OUT, DVP

38. Denny Hamlin – OUT, Engine

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, June 16, and air at 7 p.m. ET on USA Network.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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