Kyle Larson may not have led a lap at Sonoma Raceway after starting from the pole, but Sunday’s race turned out far better than his previous five starts at the Northern California road course.
Losing the lead to William Byron early off the start, Larson settled his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing into third before he began to fall back through the course of Stage 1. But crew chief Chad Johnston went for stage points throughout the day and, on the opposite strategy of those who were going for track position, Larson finished fourth in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2.
Avoiding mistakes that have been concerning him, with the car in one piece, Larson crossed the finish line 10th, picking up his first top-10 finish at Sonoma. On Saturday, Larson had earned his third straight pole at the track.
“It was better than normal for us,” said Larson. “I fell back early, but I was just taking care of my stuff. I seemed to be a lot better on long runs than normal, so I’m happy about that. And we came away with a top 10, so it was good.
“I finished better than I ever have here, so it was an improvement.”
In his five previous starts, Larson had finished 14th, 26th, 12th, 15th, and 28th with 11 laps led.
With a continued eye on the playoffs, Larson gave himself more of a buffer on the final playoff spot. He now has an 18-point gap on Jimmie Johnson, who is 17th in the standings.
“We were just better on the long runs,” said Larson of what went right. “So, I was able to pass a lot of people there throughout that last stint. I was happy about it. We got stage points, which was good; so it was a good point day.”