NASCAR Sonoma Raceway Produces Drama, Larson Comes Out on Top

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Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA — June 9, 2024

After today’s race at Sonoma Raceway, only ten races remain before the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. After today’s race at Sonoma, NBC takes over the broadcast booth, and we will not see Jamie Little on a weekly basis. Or, for that matter, listen to Mike Joy’s call of the race.

But, for today’s race, the Save Mart 350, we should see some exciting racing on the newly replaced track in California’s wine country. Drivers say the grip is excellent. Tire wear is minimal, and a number of different strategies are available to manage the race on a road course. How the cautions fall will be a key factor to watch. Track position will be key, how you get it depends on making the right call at the right time.

About Sonoma

Sonoma Raceway was opened as a 2.52-mile, multi-elevational paved road course and drag strip in 1968. Over the course of its existence, the 12-turn facility has held a few different names – Sears Point Raceway, Sears Point International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway prior to being renamed Sonoma Raceway.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was held on June 11, 1989, and was won by Ricky Rudd, driving for car owner Kenny Bernstein. Rudd ran the race at an average speed of 76.088 mph and led 61 of 74 scheduled laps (82.4%). Rudd was recently nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2025.

Over the years, the format and track configuration have changed at Sonoma Raceway. The first nine NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma were 300 kilometers, and then the distance switched to a 350k format in 1998.

The track was reconfigured to 1.949 miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7. The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.

In 2019 and 2021, the track was reconfigured back to the original 2.52-mile configuration, with races being 90 laps – 226.8 miles. Then in 2022, Sonoma Raceway returned the track configuration back to the 1.99-mile configuration with the return of the ‘chute’.

Today’s Race

Sonoma is the 16th event of the 2024 season and the second of five road/street courses on the schedule this year (COTA, Sonoma, Chicago Street Race, Watkins Glen, and Charlotte ROVAL).

So far this season, Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron took the first road course victory of the year at Circuit of The Americas back in March. Now, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway to battle it out on the challenging 1.99-mile, multi-elevational road course for the 35th time in Cup Series history (1989-2024).

Last year, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin won the pole, and Martin Truex Jr. took home the race win. It was Truex’s fourth win at Sonoma Raceway in the series (2013, 2018, 2019, and 2023) – the most among active drivers this weekend.

Active Sonoma Cup Winners Wins Seasons
Martin Truex Jr 4 2023, 2019, 2018, 2013
Kyle Busch 2 2015, 2008
Daniel Suárez 1 2022
Kyle Larson 1 2021

 

Joey Logano is on the pole for today’s race. Martin Truex Jr. starts 21st, and Hamlin starts 25th. A total of 110 laps make up the 218.9 miles or 350 kilometers. Stages are 25/30/55 laps.

Stage One

Joey Logano(22) got a great jump over Tyler Reddick(45) and took all the drama of turn one away as he cruised around the course without a challenge to his position.

The start at Sonoma / NASCAR Photo

Coming to the flag stand at the conclusion of lap two, Denny Hamlin(11) had a catastrophic engine failure, with white smoke billowing from his exhaust pipe. The Cup Series points leader may lose that designation with a last-place finish today.

Denny Hamlin Blows the engine on his FedEx race car early at Sonoma / NASCAR Photo

It took several laps to clean the oil and water dumped on the track from Hamlin’s engine failure. For the restart on lap seven, Logano’s teammate Ryan Blaney(12) lined up beside him. Different driver, same result, Logano pulled away to stay at the point.

Reddick passed Blaney quickly and closed up on the leader as they pulled away from the single-file pack. Reddick got beside Logano in turn seven but could not complete the pass.

Ty Gibbs(54) lost a right front tire after brushing the wall in turn 11 and slammed the wall just past the start/finish line on the front stretch with ten laps to go in Stage One. The damage was significant, and he will join his teammate, Denny Hamlin, in the garage as the second car out of the race.

Joey Logano surrendered the lead by coming to pit road during the Gibbs’ caution. He returned to the track in the 21st position. His strategy may have backfired, as on the first lap after the restart, Chase Briscoe(14) and Austin Cindric(2) spun, and Logano got caught up in the melee. Harrison Burton(21) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) were also involved. Everyone was able to continue with attention from their pit crews.

Reddick and Blaney lined up on the front row for the restart with three laps to go to the Stage completion. Reddick prevailed and held the top spot to the green and white checkered flag.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 45 Tyler Reddick 10
2 12 Ryan Blaney* 9
3 5 Kyle Larson 8
4 9 Chase Elliott 7
5 48 Alex Bowman 6
6 34 Michael McDowell* 5
7 1 Ross Chastain 4
8 99 Daniel Suarez 3
9 7 Corey LaJoie 2
10 38 Todd Gilliland* 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Stage Two

The top ten did not pit during the Stage-ending caution. The preferred pit strategy seems to be to just make two stops during the 110 laps.

Will Brown(33) brought out the caution just after the restart when he stopped on the track with an electrical issue. The only taker among the leaders was Michael McDowell coming to pit road. A quick restart and the caution was out again on lap 34 for a massive tangle in turn 11.

Bubba Wallace(23) went off course, and when he came back on the track, everybody shifted right. Josh Berry(4) tried to block Erik Jones(43) from coming up his inside and the two cars collided. Berry went around and partially blocked the track. Austin Dillon(3), Christopher Bell(20), William Byron(24), Cam Waters(60), and Truex were involved to a minor degree. Several other cars had to wait for the track to clear to proceed.

Dillon and Byron had to come to pit road for more attention. Dillon ultimately was forced to retire to the garage.

As we always say; cautions breed cautions! On the restart, the back of the pack bunched up. McDowell, Cindric, and Noah Gragson(10) got together, went off track, and brought out another caution flag.

Up front, the top seven cars have still not pitted. In part, because almost half the laps recorded have been under yellow. With ten laps to go, crews will have to decide if they will come in before the pit lane closes with two laps to go. Or stay out and collect the Stage points.

The decision was to pit. Blaney was the first in with four laps to go. Chase Elliott(9) and Daniel Suarez(99) followed. One lap later, Kyle Larson(5), Ross Chastain(1), and Alex Bowman(48) came in. Tyler Reddick pitted at the last opportunity.

A bunch of new names appeared at the top of the leaderboard. With Chirs Buescher(17) leading the way.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 17 Chris Buescher* 10
2 41 Ryan Preece* 9
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 8
4 8 Kyle Busch 7
5 16 AJ Allmendinger 6
6 6 Brad Keselowski* 5
7 43 Erik Jones 4
8 38 Todd Gilliland* 3
9 22 Joey Logano* 2
10 21 Harrison Burton* 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

The Final Stage

The top 10 stayed on the track, and the former lead pack will have to race through the field to get back up front or wait approximately 15-20 laps for the top cars to come to pit road.

Chris Buescher maintained his lead on the restart, with Truex, Allmendinger, Kyle Busch(8), and Jones settling in behind.

Buescher, Truex, and Logano began the next pit stop cycle on lap 69. Larson, Chastain, and Elliott returned to the front when the off-cycle cars finished their service sequence.

Chastain started the next sequence of green flag pit stops on the long run without a yellow flag. With all service stops complete, Buescher was back out front.

With 20 laps to go. Buescher held a one-second lead over Truex. Kyle Busch sat third, with Larson in fourth, and Michael McDowell running fifth. Both Buescher and Truex are looking for their first win of the year that will lock up a playoff spot for the winner. However, Kyle Larson, with fresher tires, is closing on the two leaders.

With 12 laps to go the top three were within a car length of each other. With ten laps to go, Truex got beside Buescher and was able to complete the pass, Larson followed him. A lap later and it was Larson passing Truex for the top spot.

With five to go, McDowell caught Buescher and made the pass for third. Truex was able to hang within less than a second of Larson. However, time was running out.

On the final lap, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch got together, battling for the fifth position. Busch spun, and Chastain took the spot. Busch finished 17th. Martin Truex Jr. ran out of gas running in the second spot. He had to nurse the car across the finish line using the starter motor with the car in gear to limp the final few yards to the checkered flag. He finished 27th, the last car on the lead lap.

Larson held on for his third win of the season. McDowell, Buscher, and Elliott finished second, third, and fourth.

NASCAR Playoff Standings

RANK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Kyle Larson 561 In Win (3)
2 Denny Hamlin 535 In Win (3)
3 William Byron 495 In Win (3)
4 Christopher Bell 465 In Win (2)
5 Chase Elliott 547 In Win
6 Tyler Reddick 512 In Win
7 Brad Keselowski* 466 In Win
8 Austin Cindric* 320 In Win
9 Daniel Suarez 316 In Win
10 Martin Truex Jr. 508 +128
11 Ty Gibbs 466 +86
12 Ross Chastain 453 +73
13 Alex Bowman 445 +65
14 Ryan Blaney* 444 +64
15 Chris Buescher* 412 +32
16 Bubba Wallace 388 +8
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Kyle Busch 380 -8
18 Joey Logano* 372 -16
19 Chase Briscoe* 361 -27
20 Michael McDowell* 295 -93
21 Todd Gilliland* 289 -99
22 Carson Hocevar 279 -109
23 Josh Berry* 269 -119
24 Noah Gragson* 266 -122
25 Erik Jones 250 -138

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Results of the Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 5 Kyle Larson 110
2 34 Michael McDowell 4.258 110
3 17 Chris Buescher 6.453 110
4 9 Chase Elliott 10.873 110
5 1 Ross Chastain 11.089 110
6 16 AJ Allmendinger 13.899 110
7 12 Ryan Blaney 18.855 110
8 45 Tyler Reddick 19.915 110
9 20 Christopher Bell 21.946 110
10 38 Todd Gilliland 24.091 110
11 7 Corey LaJoie 27.192 110
12 6 Brad Keselowski 37.984 110
13 99 Daniel Suarez 38.868 110
14 48 Alex Bowman 42.466 110
15 71 Zane Smith 42.889 110
16 77 Carson Hocevar 43.212 110
17 8 Kyle Busch 46.974 110
18 41 Ryan Preece 47.576 110
19 43 Erik Jones 51.769 110
20 23 Bubba Wallace 56.375 110
21 22 Joey Logano 57.011 110
22 2 Austin Cindric 58.46 110
23 15 Kaz Grala 59.982 110
24 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 63.203 110
25 21 Harrison Burton 66.499 110
26 10 Noah Gragson 68.282 110
27 19 Martin Truex Jr. 125.551 110
28 31 Daniel Hemric -1 109
29 42 John Hunter Nemechek -1 109
30 24 William Byron -2 108
31 33 Will Brown -3 107
32 4 Josh Berry -15 95
33 51 Justin Haley -22 88
34 14 Chase Briscoe -37 73
35 60 Cam Waters -44 66
36 3 Austin Dillon -71 39
37 54 Ty Gibbs -94 16
38 11 Denny Hamlin -108 2