Friday, July 19, 2024

Kyle Larson shines in NASCAR All-Star Race

Kyle Larson seems to have a knack for winning the NASCAR All-Star Race in odd-numbered years. After winning in 2019 and 2021, he scored his third triumph on Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway in complete fashion as he started sixteenth but went on to lead 145 of 200 laps including the last for the victory.

Larson took the lead from pole-sitter and Heat #1 winner Daniel Suárez on lap 55 and held it through the halfway point, leading a Drive for Diversity alumni 1–2–3 with Bubba Wallace and Suárez in tow. Had the race stayed green instead of throwing a caution flag for the midway point, Larson probably would have developed a much bigger gap than the already astounding advantage of nearly thirteen seconds on Wallace by the break.

“Friday, we were really bad,” Larson recounted in his post-race press conference. “Yes, I ran the fast lap in practice, but if you look at the thirty-lap average, I was like second to last; we were really bad on Friday. Saturday, we were really bad in the heat race as well: I was super loose in the heat race, like loose everywhere, no grip. So I had not great expectations for tonight. I just didn’t think there was enough that they could do to make me better. I thought we’d run around fifteenth tonight.

“Being a short race, starting where we did, I was like, ‘You can’t pass here.’ But then we fired off, I dropped anchor, I got stuck in the outside lane, kind of settled into second to last or whatever, and just trying to feel my car out, and I’m like, ‘I think I’m alright here,’ like I’m not bad. I just can’t pass, but I was like, ‘My entry is more stable, I can get through the middle all right, my drive-off seems better than yesterday.’ Never did I think we would drive to the lead.

“[…] Once I was picking people off, I was like, ‘Is my car this good or is the tyre disparity the reason why I’m driving through the field?’ So I asked, ‘Is anybody else passing like I am that were on new tyres?’ And they didn’t really say that anybody was. I was like, ‘Wow, shoot, our car is really good here.’

“Then we got to the lead, and I was like, ‘I want to lap as many cars as I can so we don’t have to deal with as many for the final segment.”

Save for Suarez briefly leading during pit stops, Larson never relinquished the top spot for the rest of the race. Although Wallace was able to narrow the margin, he still lost to Larson by more than four and a half seconds. Wallace’s 23XI Racing team-mate Tyler Reddick followed.

“Came off the leader off pit road, and then knowing how good my car was, I wanted the second segment to play out exactly like it did,” Larson continued. “I just wanted a long run to the end, no drama, and that’s what happened. I was able to kind of manage my stuff throughout the entire—really, the whole run, but my car felt good enough, I could look in my mirror and stretch away from Bubba and push it when I needed to see if I still had lap time in the car, and continued to manage my stuff.

“That last segment went by so fast. Honestly, when I took the checkered flag, I was thinking, ‘Is the format just 200 laps? That was so fast.’ Just cool to dominate like that, and to do it kind of like how you saw people dominate races back in the ’80s and ’90s.”

Larson also won the Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday, marking a weekend sweep in NASCAR’s first action at North Wilkesboro since 1996.

Ty Gibbs was the highest finisher of the four who advanced to the All-Star Race after not being locked in prior in ninth. He had won the Pit Crew Challenge on Friday, which allowed him to start on the pole for the All-Star Open where he finished runner-up. Josh Berry, winner of the Open, was one spot ahead in fifteenth. Fan Vote winner Noah Gragson was twenty-third.

Chris Buescher, who won the second heat, placed sixteenth.

The lone race-related caution came on lap 17 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun after a bump from Erik Jones. Jones recovered to finish eighth while Stenhouse was last and four laps down.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 16 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
2 10 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 200 Running
3 20 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 200 Running
4 5 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
5 13 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
6 11 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 200 Running
7 1 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
8 21 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 200 Running
9 23 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
10 3 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 200 Running
11 18 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
12 7 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
13 9 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 199 Running
14 12 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 199 Running
15 22 48 Josh Berry* Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 199 Running
16 2 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 199 Running
17 4 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
18 15 29 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 198 Running
19 8 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 198 Running
20 6 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 198 Running
21 17 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 198 Running
22 14 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 198 Running
23 24 42 Noah Gragson Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 197 Running
24 19 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 196 Running
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points

All-Star Open results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 2 48 Josh Berry* Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Running
2 1 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 100 Running
3 9 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 100 Running
4 8 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 100 Running
5 10 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 100 Running
6 16 15 J.J. Yeley* Rick Ware Racing Ford 100 Running
7 15 42 Noah Gragson Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 100 Running
8 12 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Running
9 3 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Running
10 11 78 Josh Bilicki* Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Running
11 4 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 100 Running
12 14 51 Ryan Newman Rick Ware Racing Ford 97 Running
13 6 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 97 Running
14 5 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 58 Accident
15 7 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 52 Accident
16 13 13 Chandler Smith* Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 49 Accident
\