NASCAR Barometer: Elliott and Blaney Dominate Bristol All-Star Race

NASCAR Barometer: Elliott and Blaney Dominate Bristol All-Star Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Wednesday night's midweek All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway went off without a hitch for Chase Elliott who, in a dominating performance, won two stages and the race to collect the million-dollar reward. The race was the first time that a track other than Charlotte Motor Speedway held the event since Elliott's father Bill won at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The night effectively became a battle for supremacy between Elliott and Ryan Blaney, who shared leadership duties through the 140 laps. In the final segments, Elliott had the race firmly in his grasp, and the uncharacteristic lack of attrition allowed him to cruise to victory once he got out front.

The NASCAR Cup series has a quick turnaround this week as they return to points racing this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year's winners at the track were Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, which makes a perfect precursor to the script this weekend as the pair battles head to head for the most wins in the 2020 season. Wednesday's momentum could give drivers like Elliott and Blaney some renewed fuel to upset that balance of power, however.

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott won his first All-Star Race with a top-notch performance Wednesday night at Bristol. His night started in the middle of the pack, but he eventually gained track position and took over the lead in the second segment, which he went on to win along with the third stage. He led 60 laps in total, sharing the

Wednesday night's midweek All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway went off without a hitch for Chase Elliott who, in a dominating performance, won two stages and the race to collect the million-dollar reward. The race was the first time that a track other than Charlotte Motor Speedway held the event since Elliott's father Bill won at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The night effectively became a battle for supremacy between Elliott and Ryan Blaney, who shared leadership duties through the 140 laps. In the final segments, Elliott had the race firmly in his grasp, and the uncharacteristic lack of attrition allowed him to cruise to victory once he got out front.

The NASCAR Cup series has a quick turnaround this week as they return to points racing this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year's winners at the track were Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, which makes a perfect precursor to the script this weekend as the pair battles head to head for the most wins in the 2020 season. Wednesday's momentum could give drivers like Elliott and Blaney some renewed fuel to upset that balance of power, however.

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott won his first All-Star Race with a top-notch performance Wednesday night at Bristol. His night started in the middle of the pack, but he eventually gained track position and took over the lead in the second segment, which he went on to win along with the third stage. He led 60 laps in total, sharing the time out front primarily with Ryan Blaney. Elliott has five top-10 finishes from eight Texas starts, but his worst finish at that track came last fall when he finished 32nd. He has been consistently quick for much of the 2020 season to date and now has fresh momentum at his back with the win Wednesday night.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney won the opening stage of Wednesday night's All-Star Race and went on to lead a total of 72 laps in an impressive display against NASCAR's best. The Penske Racing driver had one of the fastest cars on track early in Wednesday night's showcase, but ultimately couldn't best Elliott who failed to make any mistakes once he found his way to the front. The battle between these two young drivers will be exciting to watch for the remainder of the season as the playoffs approach. Blaney has never won at Texas, but he has led 233 laps in his 10 starts. He started from pole in 2018's fall race and finished eighth there in the latest visit.

William Byron – Byron dominated the second stage of the All-Star Open, leading every lap on his way to winning and earning advancement to the All-Star Race for the second time in as many years. He ran in the middle of the pack throughout all four stages and earned a 12th-place finish. Byron hasn't yet shown the consistent speed his teammates have shown in 2020, but recent weeks, including Wednesday's exhibition, have seen him start to get his footing. Points racing returns this week, which should be a chance for him to continue that building process. Byron has two top-10s and an average finish of 12.2 from his four career starts at Texas Motor Speedway.

Aric Almirola - Almirola parlayed his front-row starting spot in Wednesday night's All-Star Open race into winning the first Open stage to advance to the All-Star Race. While he didn't have the speed to run at the front of the field in the main event, he made quick work of the Open race and will take some momentum from that into this week's return to points racing at Texas Motor Speedway. His best Texas finish came in the last race at the track last season when he finished second, which is great news for him as he looks ahead to this weekend. He has been on an impressive run of top finishes this season, and Texas could be another notch in that belt.

DOWNGRADE

Clint Bowyer - Bowyer endured an up-and-down type of night Wednesday at Bristol. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver wound up finishing second in the All-Star Open, which would have left him out of the All-Star Race had he not won the fan vote to earn the final starting spot in the main event. Despite earning that nod to move on to the big show, Bowyer did not have the pace to compete at the sharp end of the field and ended the night with a disappointing 15th-place finish in the field of 20. Bowyer has not delivered a win yet this season and may be less competitive than his teammates as well. He currently sits 14th in the playoff standings. 

Kurt Busch - Early contact with Brad Keselowski and a resulting spin while running near the front in the All-Star Race effectively ended Busch's chances at victory. Busch's car sustained minor damage, and his track position was lost after the incident and he was never able to fully recover. By the middle of the second stage, he was still have issues coming back forward through the field and finished last at the finish. The former series champion will have a chance to put the poor night quickly behind him, however. His Texas record is a good one with a 2009 win and top-10 finishes in all of the last six races at the track.

Ryan Newman – Newman also suffered an early spin Wednesday night, and the result was similar to Kurt Busch's. Newman appeared to lose control on a restart and just barely received damage to the front end of his car after contact with the inside wall. The loss in track position coupled with that damage left him with an insurmountable task in coming back through the field for a top finish. When the checkered flag waved, Newman was second to last in a disappointing night. Similar to Busch again, Newman has one Texas victory from 2003. He has not finished in the top 10 there since the fall of 2016, however.

Bubba Wallace – Wallace was in the running to top the fan vote to advance to the main event Wednesday night at Bristol, but an incident in the first stage involving Michael McDowell and William Byron left Wallace in the wall with heavy damage. In order to take part in the All-Star Race Wallace would have needed a car capable of racing, but the damage sustained from the incident was more than enough to send him to the garage and out of the festivities. It was a quick and rough exit from the All-Star night. The good news is that the race didn't have championship implications and the season marches onward this week at Texas. Wallace's best Texas finish came last spring when he finished 10th after starting 23rd.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Joe Gibbs RacingKyle Busch's second-place finish in the All-Star Race was the highlight of the evening for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization. Still, Kyle Busch is a driver fantasy owners expect to be winning. While Denny Hamlin has been doing just fine in that department, Busch and Erik Jones have not. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Wednesday's race is that none of the teammates even led a lap. Their overall lack of competitiveness was highlighted in the final segment when it initially appeared Busch was on course to catch and challenge Chase Elliott only to stagnate until the finish. It wasn't the typical night fantasy owners expect from the team, and Busch continues to lag as the races continue to march toward the playoffs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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