Kyle Larson comes out on top at Texas, wins NASCAR’s entertaining All-Star Race

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NASCAR’s All-Star Race was completed with a Texas-sized ceremony. Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage hyped up the event hosted at the Fort Worth track for the first time, and delivered the showmanship on Sunday.

Pre-race ceremonies included pyrotechnics, cowboy hats and an appearance by cheerleaders for the Dallas Cowboys. Post-race celebrations were complete with race winner Kyle Larson in Victory Lane holding two pistols and firing blank shots into the air with a smile that recognized he’d just won a million dollars.

“I’ve always wanted one of these,” Larson said admiring his prizes. “Jimmie Johnson’s got a lot of these dang things.”

Larson didn’t dominate most laps of the six-round race format like he has the last two races. He said he surprised himself after starting on the pole through a random draw, then falling to the back due to the invert in the second round and struggling with his car. But Larson credited crew chief Cliff Daniels with making the necessary adjustments on his Chevrolet to get back in a top-three position to start the final three rounds.

The No. 5 driver lined up behind Chase Elliott in the lead for the last restart of the 10-lap shootout that closed the race. When the green flag waved, Larson drove high to pass Elliott on the outside, as Brad Keselowski took the low line to run into second place. Larson led the final laps and held off Keselowski by 0.2 seconds at the flag.

“It was a little slick up there but I was able to get it and hold him off from there,” Larson said. “I can’t believe it.”

Elliott was another favorite to win the race and led 12 laps behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron (30 laps led), as well as Larson (18) and Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney (15). Blaney also started in the top-four for the final restart, but finished behind his teammates Keselowski in second and Joey Logano, who finished fourth. Elliott finished third.

“Kyle got to my outside and that was the end of it really,” Elliott said. “Just got beat.”

While the Penske cars delivered a strong showing at the 1.5-mile track, it was yet another dominant night for Hendrick Motorsports, which has won the last five races. Keselowski said that he considered running second to a Hendrick car an accomplishment.

“They are just stupid fast,” Keselowski said. “I had (Larson) off Turn 4, but they just have so much speed. He just motored right back by me, like damn!”

Daniels said he’d rate his execution of his team’s strategy a “B” since the car was built for getting clean air, but the format of the race featured inversions, meaning Larson was sent to the back early to battle through traffic.

“You had to be able to pass,” Daniels said of the strategy with the inversion. “So it took us a little while to get our car where it could do that.”

Daniels noted the “big mix in the field” and didn’t offer any suggestions for the format change. Hendrick Motorsports competition director Jeff Andrews offered his perspective on NASCAR’s change to reduced horsepower for the race. NASCAR utilized a 510 horsepower package instead of its typical 550 horsepower package with the goal of bunching the field together and increasing drafting. The move has been met with criticism by some, but Andrews said he thought that it was a “good move” from a competition and fan perspective.

“I think it produced the intent of what the reduction in power was intended to do,” Andrews said. “It looked very competitive on the racetrack...I thought the restarts were great, and there were some real opportunities to kind of jumble some things up on the restarts, depending on the side draft you got and who your partner was pushing you.”

NASCAR will continue to deliberate on the package as well as the location for the non-points event. The All-Star Race has been held at two different tracks over the last two years in a switch from its traditional home at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Last year, the race was held at Bristol due to the pandemic. This year, it was the sendoff event at Texas for Gossage, who will retire on July 1 after serving the speedway for more than 25 years.

“I’ve always believed that the All-Star Race should move around to different tracks,” Larson said. “Kind of like how other sports, their All-Star games move to different venues. We’ll see if that’s something that they do. I think all of us drivers would love to see that.”

Gossage presented Larson with his trophy and million dollar check (“I’m gonna save for sure”) and looked misty-eyed as the semi-full grandstands cheered on the night of Texas-sized theatrics and the promoter’s long career. A digital sign reading, “Thank you Eddie,” lit up the sky over the infield.

All-Star Race results

Pos.

Car

Driver

Time behind

Best time

Best speed

1

5

Kyle Larson

--

29.814

181.123

2

2

Brad Keselowski

0.206

29.809

181.153

3

9

Chase Elliott

0.823

29.682

181.928

4

22

Joey Logano

1.513

29.99

180.06

5

12

Ryan Blaney

1.8

29.861

180.838

6

48

Alex Bowman

1.994

29.891

180.656

7

24

William Byron

2.711

29.737

181.592

8

10

Aric Almirola

3.451

29.994

180.036

9

18

Kyle Busch

3.639

29.921

180.475

10

1

Kurt Busch

3.862

29.996

180.024

11

20

Christopher Bell

4.292

29.951

180.294

12

34

Michael McDowell

4.373

29.873

180.765

13

19

Martin Truex Jr.

4.488

29.998

180.012

14

41

Cole Custer

5.554

29.943

180.343

15

4

Kevin Harvick

5.857

29.963

180.222

16

8

Tyler Reddick

5.926

30.102

179.39

17

21

Matt DiBenedetto

6.985

30.027

179.838

18

42

Ross Chastain

7.256

30.17

178.986

19

3

Austin Dillon

7.324

30.102

179.39

20

6

Ryan Newman

7.413

30.17

178.986

21

11

Denny Hamlin

13.809

29.798

181.22

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