NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — The venue was the all-star Sunday night.
North Wilkesboro Speedway, which last played host to a NASCAR Cup Series event in 1996, was electric for the NASCAR All-Star Race, a $1 million-to-win exhibition event that features primarily race winners from the previous 15 months and past champions.
Kyle Larson was the only driver who seemed to have a spark as he led the final 96 laps and 145 of the final 146 circuits in the 200-lap race in front of a sold-out crowd of about 30,000.
“The vibe was just amazing, and the race, too, was quick,” Larson said. “It was fun. It made it fun that my car was so good. It was just a great night.”
Takeaways from Hendrick Motorsports driver’s victory as he crossed the finish line ahead of 23XI Racing teammates Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Chase Briscoe was fourth and Chase Elliott was fifth.
Larson So Dominant
The 2021 Cup champion won the all-star race for the third time in his career, with this one by a margin of victory of 4.537 seconds.
“It’s just cool to dominate like that and to do it kind of like you saw people dominate races in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Larson said.
He pitted about 15 laps under caution and had to go to the rear because of a speeding penalty, but promptly drove his way through the field, owning a 12-lap lead when a competition caution was thrown on Lap 100.
Kyle Larson cruises
Check out the final laps of the NASCAR All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Larson never gave up the lead except when pitting under the competition caution.
“When I was lapping people, I could roll in [to the corner] so fast on entry,” Larson said.
Wallace said there wasn’t much he could do to catch Larson.
“He just drove away on that restart [after the competition caution],” Wallace said. “Could I have tried to be more aggressive and get him out of the way? I don’t think it would have mattered.
“I think he would have just drove back through the field.”
23XI Racing Almost There
Wallace and Reddick didn’t have as much as Larson, but to put the 23XI Racing cars second and third had to be considered a solid day.
“We just didn’t have the full potential that we needed,” Wallace said. “To come out of here second? We’ll take it.”
Reddick said he would have liked to have seen what he could have done if he wasn’t mired in traffic.
NASCAR All-Star Race highlights
The return to North Wilkesboro for the NASCAR All-Star Race was a weekend to remember as Kyle Larson dominated for the win.
“He was pretty good,” Reddick said. “It would have been interesting to see if roles were reversed what would have happened if we were in front and he was trying to run us down.
“Obviously they were really strong. They did a good job of getting through the field being aggressive with it. I should have been a little more aggressive on my end.”
In the Open race for drivers who had not earned an automatic bid to the main event, Ty Gibbs got into Michael McDowell, who then got into Justin Haley.
McDowell’s car was damaged and when Ty Gibbs tried to lap him, McDowell pinched Gibbs close to the inside wall but did not wreck him. Gibbs went on to finish second and advance to the main event while McDowell was eliminated.
“I just wasn’t going to wave him by,” McDowell said about the retaliatory strategy. “I was going to make him go around on the outside and he still wanted to try to go through the bottom, which he was setting himself up, and I should have ran him into the barrels [of sand by the inside wall] and called it good.”
Gibbs said that McDowell ran into him several weeks ago at Martinsville.
“I 100 percent understand his frustration,” Gibbs said. “I moved him out of the way. They fenced us and completely wrecked us for 18th at Martinsville out of nowhere. It’s just a learning experience,”
McDowell said he will be over it by next week.
“He overstepped it,” McDowell said. “I’ve overstepped it a hundred times. It’s not an Earth-shaking thing. It just sucks for me I was on the bad end.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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