NASCAR All-Star Race Preview: Texas All-Stars

NASCAR All-Star Race Preview: Texas All-Stars

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

NASCAR takes a break from the regular-season schedule Sunday night to hold its annual All-Star Race. Most fantasy racing leagues don't recognize this event, but some do along with daily fantasy racing and many racing pools that form specifically for this event and its unique format. For the second consecutive season, NASCAR will hold it's All-Star event on the track at Texas Motor Speedway. The sanctioning body moved this exhibition race to Forth Worth last season and has decided to keep this non-points event at the intermediate oval in Texas.

This exhibition race is divided into several racing segments which ultimately culminate in the final segment in which a winner is crowned. The racing begins Sunday evening with the All-Star Open, a 50-lap sprint race divided into three segments (20/20/10 laps) with the final 10-lap heat being the final dash to the finish. As many as four Open drivers can transfer into the All-Star Race, three by winning each segment of the Open, and the potential fourth by winning an internet fan vote. To qualify for the Open, a driver must have finished inside the Top 50 of the 2021 Cup Series standings, attempted to qualify for the 2022 Daytona 500 or competed in a NASCAR Cup Series event during the 2022 season. This is an exciting heat race, because the winners of the segments are usually drivers that are not normally contenders for the victory on most Cup Series race weekends. 

After the Open and later Sunday night is

NASCAR takes a break from the regular-season schedule Sunday night to hold its annual All-Star Race. Most fantasy racing leagues don't recognize this event, but some do along with daily fantasy racing and many racing pools that form specifically for this event and its unique format. For the second consecutive season, NASCAR will hold it's All-Star event on the track at Texas Motor Speedway. The sanctioning body moved this exhibition race to Forth Worth last season and has decided to keep this non-points event at the intermediate oval in Texas.

This exhibition race is divided into several racing segments which ultimately culminate in the final segment in which a winner is crowned. The racing begins Sunday evening with the All-Star Open, a 50-lap sprint race divided into three segments (20/20/10 laps) with the final 10-lap heat being the final dash to the finish. As many as four Open drivers can transfer into the All-Star Race, three by winning each segment of the Open, and the potential fourth by winning an internet fan vote. To qualify for the Open, a driver must have finished inside the Top 50 of the 2021 Cup Series standings, attempted to qualify for the 2022 Daytona 500 or competed in a NASCAR Cup Series event during the 2022 season. This is an exciting heat race, because the winners of the segments are usually drivers that are not normally contenders for the victory on most Cup Series race weekends. 

After the Open and later Sunday night is the Cup Series All-Star Race. This is the night's main feature. It is a 125-lap event divided into four segments of 25 laps, 25 laps, 25 laps, and a 50-lap shootout finale. The drivers who transfer from the Open join the drivers who are race winners from the previous and current Cup Series seasons, past All-Star event champions and Cup Series champions who are active drivers and have competed in at least one series event during the 2021 or 2022 season. The starting grid for the first segment is set by pole-qualifying held the previous day and then the green flag drops for the first 25-lap stage. The winners of the first three stages take the top-3 staring spots for the final stage. There will be a mandatory four-tire, timed pit stop competition that all teams must perform between stages 2 and 3. The team with the fastest pit stop locks their driver into the fourth starting spot for the last stage. The winner of this fourth and final stage earns a hefty $1 million purse. NASCAR overtime rules apply to all segments of the All-Star Race. Only green flag laps count, so there will be no finishes under caution, and no caution flag laps taken off the board to shorten these exciting segments.

Since this is an exhibition racing event and a departure from NASCAR's normal racing format, we have to put the historical track statistics in proper perspective this week. The stats can be skewed since most teams come to the All-Star race with "disposable cars" and are looking to hit the big payday even at the expense of wrecking the team's car. However, we can rely to the historical stats to a certain degree when evaluating our contenders this week. The stats in the table below cover the Top-15 drivers by average finish in the last 10 races at Texas Motor Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishWinsTop 5Top 10PolesLaps Led
Kevin Harvick4.93792566
Joey Logano8.50580306
Tyler Reddick8.701205
Kyle Busch8.72470330
Christopher Bell9.002205
Ryan Blaney9.90371403
Kurt Busch10.2008241
Erik Jones10.30360112
Chase Elliott12.2015043
Martin Truex Jr.13.30360301
William Byron14.4013079
Chase Briscoe15.000000
Aric Almirola15.50140101
Brad Keselowski16.4025069
Denny Hamlin17.01240136

This weekend's race is unlike any of the normal Cup Series events, so we'll handle the prognostications a bit different as well.  We'll give you our picks for who'll contend for the win in the All-Star Open, and then our picks for who'll contend for winning the fourth and final stage of the Cup Series All-Star Race.

The Open Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Tyler Reddick – Reddick has been sort of hit-or-miss lately, but he definitely has more upside than any driver in this Open field. This weekend will be his third start in the All-Star Open. In this race one year ago he led 38 of the 50 laps and dominated a large portion of this heat race. Reddick would win stage 2 and transfer into last season's All-Star Race as a result. In this thinner field of competition, the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet clearly stands out. Reddick is nearly a lock to win one of the stages of this race, if not the final stage and once again transfer into the night's main event.     

Austin Dillon – The veteran RCR driver has been a steady performer on the intermediate ovals in the new stock car, and his recent ninth- and 13th-place finishes at Darlington and Kansas are good evidence of this fact. Dillon has finished in the Top-3 of his last two Open starts. He's typically an automatic seed in the All-Star Race, but his winless 2021 and winless to this point 2022 have him starting Sunday night in the Open. He'll be one of the more experienced and skilled drivers in this heat race. Dillon should have little trouble winning one of the stages of this event and transferring into the All-Star Race at Texas.   

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse has spent much of this season in the high weeds and looking rather clueless in the new Next-Gen car. However, that seemed to change dramatically two weeks ago. The JTG Daugherty Racing veteran has come on to post a pair of eighth-place finishes at both Darlington and Kansas and neither of those efforts were flukes. Stenhouse has an All-Star history dating back to 2013, but with little accomplishments. That first season he did finish second-place in the Open and transfer into the All-Star main event as a rookie. Otherwise the cabinet has been somewhat lean. However, given the current momentum of the No. 47 team, we feel that Stenhouse will be a threat to win this All-Star Open.

Daniel Suarez – Suarez has received less attention than his Trackhouse Racing teammate, Ross Chastain, this season but he deserves some worthy recognition. The driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet earned a stunning Top 5 at Atlanta earlier this year and a more recent Top 10 at Darlington. The team and driver have had the speed and have produced some results in 2022. Suarez peddled his Chevrolet to a strong 10th-place finish at Texas last fall and that was his third-career Top 10 at the track. He's no stranger to these All-Star Open heat races. This will be his sixth start in this event. Suarez won this event in 2017 and he won stage 2 in 2018 to race his way into the All-Star main event twice.       

Chris Buescher – Buescher has been a bit of an up-and-down performer of late, but he's shown some speed on the higher banked ovals. He won a pole finished a surprising eighth-place at Dover three weeks ago, and Buescher claimed a strong seventh-place finish on the 28 degree banking of Atlanta earlier this season. All good indicators heading into the All-Star Open. This will be his sixth entry into the Open heat race. Buescher has fifth-, fourth- and third-place finishes in this event in three of the last four seasons. He's not been a lap leader or winner of this event, but he always seems to be in the mix for the win at the end. We'll believe Buescher will throw his hat in the ring again this Sunday night at Texas.     

Justin Haley – The young driver of the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet has been quite impressive this season. Haley had a recent career-best third-place at Darlington, and he's cracked the Top 15 in four of his last five starts heading into the All-Star break. The driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet has a lot of potential and he's shown he's learning the new Next-Gen car well. This will be Haley's third-straight season participating in the All-Star weekend, so he's far from inexperienced at this exhibition racing. His entry into the 22-car Open field last year netted an impressive seventh-place finish in his Open debut. Haley is capable of taking things up a notch this season. We wouldn't rule out him possibly winning a stage of this year's heat race.      

Erik Jones – In a field that's generally short on experience, Jones' name stands out. He's a veteran of almost 200 Cup Series starts and a two-time winner in NASCAR's top division. That's a pretty respectable resume for this thinner driver field. Jones has four Top-10 finishes this season, so he's been doing some good work at Petty GMS Motorsports. Most of that success has come on the larger, faster ovals. Texas and All-Star weekend could be a big hit with Jones and the No. 43 team. He has three starts in the Open and two in the All-Star main event, so he's not short on experience. In 2018 Jones finished an impressive second-place in this event. He has the potential to do that this weekend as well. 

The All-Star Race Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

William Byron – This will be Byron's fourth All-Star Race. He's yet to win to this point, but he's inching closer to that first prestigious victory and big payout. In this event one year ago, Byron led 30 of the 100 laps of the main feature and finished a respectable seventh-place at evening's end. It was an eye-catching showing for the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet. Byron won earlier this season at the intermediate and highly-banked Atlanta oval and he also collected a Top-5 finish at similar-sized Las Vegas. The Hendrick Motorsports youngster appears to be one of the top contenders to win Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.  

Chase Elliott – Elliott is the 2020 All-Star winner and he has a track record of performing well in these exhibition races despite the fact that they've moved venues in recent seasons. In NASCAR's All-Star debut at Texas last year, Elliott led 12 laps and challenged for the win, but finished an impressive third-place in the 2021 All-Star Race. The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet has yet to win on an intermediate oval this season in the new Next-Gen car, but he's been getting close to that goal. A recent Top-5 finish at Darlington bodes well, and Elliott was racing for the win this past week at Kansas before a late-race spin ended his chances. Texas Motor Speedway has been a good oval for this driver in his Cup Series career. 

Kyle Larson – The winner of his last two All-Star Races (2019 and 2021) checks in near the top of the contenders list this week. Larson has been a real performer in these exhibition races with two All-Star wins, one runner-up All-Star performance and two victories in the All-Star Open. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has been getting incrementally better in the new stock car and is fresh off a runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway this past weekend. He also collected a runner-up finish earlier in the year at similar-sized Las Vegas. Larson won his last points-paying event at Texas last fall in a dominant performance. That's a great last look heading into Sunday's All-Star Race.      

Joey Logano – Logano is the 2016 winner of the All-Star Race and he has a number of Top-5 finishes in this event over the years. Last season's move to Texas didn't disrupt that success. Logano peddled the No. 22 Ford to a strong fourth-place finish in the All-Star Race's Texas debut. The Penske Racing star is a one-time Texas winner and he cracks the Top 5 at this track at a strong 42-percent rate. Logano has been a bit uneven in his intermediate oval performance so far in 2022, but he should have no trouble elevating his game Sunday night for this prestigious exhibition and huge potential payday.  

Kyle Busch – Just when we thought Toyota was toast on these intermediate ovals this season, a Toyota driver (Kurt Busch) won this past Sunday at Kansas and Toyota drivers took five of the Top-6 finishing spots in that race. Busch was a part of that success placing an impressive third in the AdventHealth 400. With the All-Star Race this week being at another intermediate oval, we have to keep an eye on the top Toyota drivers. Busch is a one-time winner of the All-Star Race (2017) and he has finished inside the Top 3 in two of his last three All-Star exhibition events. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is a four-time Texas winner and as recently as 2020. Busch will make his presence felt before the end of the night Sunday in Fort Worth.   

Ross Chastain – The surprise performer of 2022 has a chance to make a big splash on All-Star weekend as well. Chastain's seven Top 5's to this point in the campaign are a career-best mark and have him positioned a surprising fifth-place in the driver point standings. Chastain has been hitting big on the intermediate ovals with second- and third-place finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas as well as a strong seventh-place finish this past weekend at Kansas. He's led over 270 laps for the season, which is also another career-best marker. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet won a stage in last season's All-Star Open, but he's yet to make his mark in the main event. That could easily happen Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.   

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex has yet to win on these intermediate ovals this season, but he's been quite consistent. Eighth-place finishes at Las Vegas and Atlanta, coupled with a sixth-place finish at Kansas this past week are a good record. He's yet to discover the speed and the push to challenge for the win yet, but that discovery could happen this weekend. Truex is a two-time winner of the Open and he has All-Star experience dating back to 2005. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has seen and experienced a lot of All-Star weekends. Truex has led well over 650 laps for his career at the Fort Worth oval, so he knows how to get around this very fast race track.   

Alex Bowman – With one win and eight Top 10's already this season, Bowman is worthy of fantasy deployment this weekend at Texas. He won earlier this season at Las Vegas and Top 10's at Atlanta and Kansas this year are a good endorsement. Bowman has always been an intermediate oval performer. Texas Motor Speedway has yielded a pair of Top-5 finishes in his last four starts at the track. In terms of All-Star performance, Bowman has finished inside the Top 8 of his last three All-Star Race starts. He's not been a big lap leader, but he's been quite consistent finishing these races. With the x-factor of the Next-Gen car, Bowman can't be overlooked this All-Star weekend. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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