Twenty-five years ago, NASCAR's All-Star Race had the kind of action and drama the sport's powerbrokers could only dream about: Three superstars slugging it out in exactly the kind of no-holds barred fashion the exhibition race is supposed to epitomize.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted all but one all-star race in the 33-year history of the event. I knew being the leader off pit road was going to be the big thing. It made little difference as the first segment was more like a 20-lap parade, with little action and Larson leading flag to flag.
Busch, who started the final stage in third, went to the bottom of the track, almost tearing up his splitter in the grass, to make the pass. The victor of each of the first three will be locked into the final 10 cars, 10 lap stage, providing they stay on the lead lap.
The final segment only comprised of 10 drivers. Kyle Busch started behind Keselowski and with fresher tires was able to pass him for the lead on the first lap.
After taking the lead at the fourth-stage green flag, Kyle Busch was in front the remaining laps.
The second segment featured more of the same, as Ryan Blaney, who qualified second and started in first after Bowyer's exit, led all 20 laps and punched his ticket to the main event.
Busch began to pull away with 25 laps remaining building almost a 3 second lead before a caution came out with seven laps remaining.
"We had the best vehicle out there, for sure", Larson said.
"I thought the middle was going to close up, but Crafton left me a lane in the middle and I was able to blow by both of them", Busch said.
KYLE LARSON, No. 42 Target Chevrolet (Runner-Up): "We had a dominant vehicle most of the race. Sometimes it works out for you; sometimes it doesn't". Our pit crew saved me in that first round to get us into this second round. When he didn't pit with the rest of the field before the last segment, Keselowski inherited the lead.
"We had to make a move", Jones said. You cant pass running the same speed. "Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don't have the upper hand". It's just on the bottom. I could see a million dollars out the windshield and I just drove this Lowe's Chevy way too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground.
As Blaney fell back through the field, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick and Kurt Busch waged a battle for second behind Johnson.
Larson, however, said he didn't want to take any chances even if it looked like Busch was going to win. NASCAR is allowing teams to use a tire with a softer tread that will generate speeds up to a half-a-second per lap faster during the All-Star race.
Larson went the Donny Schatz route after finishing second in the All-Star Race (for the second straight year) Saturday night. The idea was that the softer tire - which was faster - could be used once at any time during the race.
Some of the most dramatic racing of the evening took place in the Monster Open, the 50-lap, three-stage qualifying race that preceded the main event.
"That was a fun last 10 laps". That put us in a good position in Segment 2, then we won Segment 3. If a driver has won a points race in 2016 or 2017 they qualify. Johnson leads all active drivers with 82 points race victories and seven championships so it makes sense that he is listed as the sports betting favorite to win the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. You have to be ideal to win a Cup race; even an Xfinity race you have to be flawless, especially a Cup race, though. No matter what format NASCAR used, at least the All-Star Race always felt like a unique, once-a-year treat for the fans.
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