Kyle Larson was speechless after his third All-Star Race win in the last five years.
“It was old-school ass whipping, for sure,” Larson said.
Larson turned in a dominant effort to run away with the All-Star Race and earn $1 million Sunday night in the Cup Series’ return to North Wilkesboro Speedway after a 27-year absence.
He became only the fourth driver to win the All-Star Race at least three times. Jimmie Johnson has the most with four victories, while Larson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt each have three. Larson is the first to win the All-Star Race at three different tracks, with his previous victories coming at Charlotte in 2019 and Texas in 2021.
He celebrated the win with a full lap of burnouts around the .625-mile track as Hendrick Motorsports won its 11th All-Star Race.
Bubba Wallace finished second in the 200-lap non-points exhibition race, followed by Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Chase Elliott.
But Larson was the only one to collect a prize in the winner-take-all event.
Wallace joked that he won “the best of the rest.”
“Larson is off, so congratulations to him,” Wallace said. “They hit it on the head all the time, so running second to them isn’t a bad thing.
Larson wasn’t sure if she could finish better than 15th after struggling in Saturday night’s heat races.
“I don’t think there’s enough there [my crew] for me to get better,” said Larson.
So when Larson was penalized for speeding on Lap 24 and sent to the back of the field, he figured it wasn’t going to be his night.
But after getting the new tires, he drove his No. 5 Chevrolet at the front of the field, blowing past 16 cars, including pole sitter Daniel Suarez on Lap 56. Larson continued to build an 11-second lead before the first competitive pit stop on Lap 100.
“Once I picked people, I was like, man, is my car good or is it the tire difference?” Larson said. “Then I said, take it, our car is good. So I tried to lap as much as I could.”
The competitive caution didn’t slow down Larson, who was never seriously challenged in the second half of the race.
“We had a great car in the long runs, and I was thinking that for sure there was going to be a caution,” said Larson, who also won the Trucks Series race in North Wilkesboro last Saturday. “I got out with a big lead, and I saw everyone’s cars driving like crazy in front of me.”
When fans came to see the wreckage, they walked away disappointed.
And the only pass they saw for the lead was Larson passing Suarez in what amounted to another short-track snoozer in an era where NASCAR has struggled with uncompetitive races.
“It’s no secret that everyone in the industry, the fans, have been vocal about wanting better short-track racing, so I think what happened tonight goes hand in hand with what the narrative is right now. ,” Reddick said. “NASCAR is working on it, and we’re all going to put our heads together and try to make short-track racing better.”
The paved asphalt track at North Wilkesboro Speedway was in excellent shape after a week of racing despite not having been paved in more than three decades.
The track, which sat mostly dormant and overgrown with weeds, was restored with the help of Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith and Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for NASCAR’s 75th year anniversary season.
Suarez and Chris Buescher started on the front row for the All-Star Race after winning their 60-lap heats on Saturday night, when NASCAR experimented for the first time with wet tires on Cup Series cars. .
Suarez dominated early, leading the first 55 laps of the race, while Buescher quickly fell off the pace early on, dropping to 10th place after just five laps when he got stuck on the outside.