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A Mistake-Free Kyle Larson Is Very Dangerous

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What Happened?

After a rash of yellows to start the race and a field of mixed-up strategies, Kyle Larson used fresher tires to track down Chris Buescher and Martin Truex Jr. to win the race on Sunday (June 9), his second victory at Sonoma Raceway and third win of the season.

Truex ran out of fuel on the final lap, so Michael McDowell picked up second while Buescher finished third. Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.

What Really Happened?

In a race full of mistakes, Larson remained perfect to cap off a difficult drive with a victory in wine country.

Sure, Larson has the ability to win every time he sits behind the wheel of a racecar. But this season, something seems different.

Larson — and the No. 5 team — are not making mistakes.

Last season, many marked Larson as the championship favorite, especially after two wins early in the year. But a Jekyll and Hyde season from Larson featured many mistakes that took him out of contention and ended his championship pursuit.

The self-sabotage began in May, when Larson had wins at Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway within grasp before he had run-ins with Denny Hamlin and Chastain. Hamlin foiled another bid for victory at Pocono Raceway later in the summer.

In the playoffs, Larson dominated at Texas Motor Speedway but crashed, ultimately leading to his Round of 12 elimination. After getting knocked out, he had another win at Homestead-Miami Speedway within grasp until he ran into the pit road barrels.

Coming from the world of short dirt races, most of the criticism levied against Larson revolved around his inability to put together a full race. He certainly improved since his rookie season in 2014, and the No. 5 team completed a full season in 2021, earning 10 wins and the championship.

But the Next Gen car has caused Larson fits these past two seasons. He’s pushed hard — a little too hard at times — as he had eight DNFs in 2023.

This year, Larson has found a way to continue his performance, all while minimizing the mistakes. On Sunday, he even flipped the script.

Bearing down on Truex and Buescher, Larson arrived to the three-car battle for the lead with a little more than 10 laps to go. With the Next Gen car, we see guys seemingly stick to their lines and minimize mistakes.

But with Truex pushing Buescher hard, the No. 17 went wide in turn 10. That led to a fun battle with Truex before the No. 19 finally got by, bringing…

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