Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher win All-Star heats

It’s a bit ironic that heat races were inundated with rain.

The two heats for the NASCAR All-Star Race brought some wet racing to North Wilkesboro Speedway, but weather did not rain on the parade for Daniel Suárez and Chris Buescher as they won both to make up the front row for Sunday’s All-Star.

While the weather did not hit the Craftsman Truck Series race earlier in the day, it did so for the first heat and forced the entire sixty-lap event to be run using the wet tyre package. Rain racing is difficult to impossible to achieve on larger ovals due to their high banking, but shorter tracks like the .625-mile North Wilkesboro Speedway—which has thirteen degrees of banking in the turns—are more viable options. The Trucks at Martinsville in April marked the first time they were used in a points race.

Save for a break for rain at the midway point, the first race ran completely green. Chase Elliott led the first third before Suárez, the fastest qualifier in the Pit Crew Challenge on Friday of those already locked into the All-Star, did so the rest of the way (winner Ty Gibbs must run the All-Star Open on Sunday to qualify).

Multiple drivers observed that the wet tyres helped them set faster times than the usual dry set.

“I almost felt like we had more grip on the wet weather tyres than we did the slicks,” said Chase Briscoe, who finished third in Heat #1. “It was definitely interesting. I don’t know what lap times we were running, but I definitely felt like we were running way faster than what we were on slicks. Maybe we need to change them a little bit just to make them to where there’s a little more fall off. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s definitely something we can do week in and week out. I think we’ve proved that.”

“It wasn’t wet. We probably could have put dries on it and it would have been fine, but I know we’re playing it a little safe for the first time,” commented Joey Logano, runner-up in the first heat.

The weather slightly improved ahead of Heat #2, allowing the field to start on slicks before it started sprinkling on lap 25. Teams were required to commit to the wet tyres.

Buescher led every lap to win the second heat, placing him second to start the All-Star while Suárez is on pole.

“It was dictated by weather,” Buescher stated. “In both heat races, we just basically split them to either check on rain tyres from the beginning of the first heat or switch to rains for ours. It’s not that we’re out there wrecking stuff. I would have like to have seen it drive out a little bit longer and see what we had, but we were really conserving tyres on slicks when we thought that was probably going to run to the end and really trying to take care of them as much as possible. I would have loved to have seen what that would have done for us in another twenty or thirty laps, and then bolting on the wets. It was the same thing, trying to get a comfortable cushion and then kind of roll out of it from there to where we weren’t trying to burn out stuff up too much in case it did fall off hard there at the end.

“Honestly, the wet weather scenario doesn’t really matter anymore. Tomorrow’s radar looks way better and I don’t think we’ll be dealing with that. We’ll definitely focus on that slick tyre run and see what we can do to work on it and study it a little bit and see what we feel like it would have done with another twenty laps.”

Kyle Larson, who won the Truck race, finished Heat #2 in eighth.

Race results

Heat #1

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 1 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 60 Running
2 3 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 60 Running
3 5 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 60 Running
4 10 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 60 Running
5 4 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 60 Running
6 9 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 60 Running
7 2 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 60 Running
8 8 29 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 60 Running
9 7 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 60 Running
10 6 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 60 Running
11 11 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 60 Running

Heat #2

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 1 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 60 Running
2 2 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 60 Running
3 3 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 60 Running
4 8 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 60 Running
5 7 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 60 Running
6 6 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 60 Running
7 9 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 60 Running
8 5 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 60 Running
9 4 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 60 Running
10 10 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 60 Running
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