Hometown hero Kyle Larson made a pass for the lead with eight laps remaining in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Toyota/Save Mart 350 to claim his second win at the Sonoma Raceway road course and third trophy of the season.

It was a frantic start to the day on the newly repaved 1.99-mile course through the rolling Northern California hills, with seven caution flags falling before the 110-lap race’s halfway point — more yellow flags than the previous two Sonoma races had combined.

But the final 51 laps ran caution-free, with varying pit-stop strategies playing a vital role in track position. Hendrick Motorsports driver Larson was among the last to make his final stop, coming out on track in eighth place with 20 laps remaining and then moving forward by picking off one car, sometimes two cars at a time.

Larson, who is from Elk Grove, California, about an hour from the track, ultimately put his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet out front to stay after a dramatic three-way battle with four-time Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr. and Chris Buescher with eight to go.

After Larson passed them both, Truex kept Larson honest for much of the closing laps, only to run out of gas on the final corner. His No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came to a stop in front of the frontstretch grandstands, about 40 yards shy of the checkered flag. And with the other cars zooming by, Truex ultimately inched his car forward to a cheering crowd, limping across the finish line in a heartbreaking 27th place.

“I didn’t know what we were doing as far as strategy,” said the 31-year-old Larson. “I was just out there banging laps away. So I was like, these guys have to pit another time maybe but then when they said I had to go race and then pass those guys, I got a bit nervous. I knew I’d be quick from the get-go but thought once the tires came up to temp it would even off too much.

“Thankful we had enough grip. Thankful too, those guys got racing and Martin never got clear really to where I’d be stuck in third. Just an awesome, awesome race.”

After making a last-lap pass of Buescher and then benefiting from Truex’s situation, Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell came across the line in second place — 4.258 seconds behind Larson.

Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Racing Ford was third, followed by Hendrick’s Chase Elliott and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, who had a collision with Richard Childress Racing driver Kyle Busch on the last lap that sent Busch’s No. 8 Chevrolet off track and dropped him from a likely top-10 finish to 12th place.

“Proud of everybody,” Buescher said of his 32 laps led and Stage 2 win despite starting the race 26th. “That was a good one to be close and in the hunt. Kind of a tough weekend until today. If you had told us we’d gather some playoff and stage points, we’d be happy. Just needed a bit more coming to the finish line.”

Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger was sixth, followed by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who won the opening stage and led a race-best 35 laps. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell finished ninth and Front Row Motorsports’ Todd Gilliland claimed 10th-place — the 23-year-old driver’s second top-10 finish of the season.

Polesitter Joey Logano finished 21st and the two Australian Supercar Series drivers making their NASCAR debuts — Will Brown and Cam Waters — finished 31st and 35th, respectively.

It was a significant win for the 2021 series champion Larson, giving him the championship lead by 14 points over his Hendrick teammate Elliott. It comes on the heels of last week’s news that Larson would be granted a playoff waiver from NASCAR despite missing the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

The multi-talented Larson had competed in a rain-delayed Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend with plans to run racing’s celebrated “Double”—the Indy 500 and Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600. Bad weather, however, ruined those plans, and he never was able to turn a lap at the 600.

Larson’s victory Sunday — his 26th career win — was significant for him in the championship standings, but the race was also a big deal for the opposite reasons for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, who had held the points lead entering the race. Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota suffered an engine problem after just two laps, and he finished 38th — last — in the field. He dropped to third in the championship standings, 26 points behind Larson.

“No [warning], it’s just the gearing is a little weird for the track,” said Hamlin, who snapped a five-race streak of top-five finishes that included a win at Dover and a runner-up at Gateway last week.

“It’s a lot of high-end RPM stuff, but the same as everyone else, and I’m just not really sure. They’ll look at it and figure it out, but certainly not ideal.”

His JGR teammate Ty Gibbs was out just 14 laps later after his No. 54 Toyota clipped the Turn 11 wall, damaging his right-front and sending his car into the Turn 1 barrier.

The Cup Series’ next race is the Iowa Corn 350, scheduled for next Sunday (7 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Iowa Speedway. The event is the Cup Series’ first at the 0.875-mile oval in the Hawkeye State.

Note: Post-race inspection in the Cup Series garage was completed without issue at Sonoma Raceway, confirming Larson’s victory. No cars were selected for further inspection at the NASCAR Research & Development Center.

Courtesy of NASCAR.com