NASCAR Barometer: Larson Wins Second All-Star Race

NASCAR Barometer: Larson Wins Second All-Star Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Texas Motor Speedway hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race for the first time Sunday evening, and it was Kyle Larson who went to Victory Lane for the third consecutive race. While it wasn't a points-paying race, the win did come with a million-dollar prize for him and the team. It was another impressive night from the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team that is hitting on all cylinders now, and it was Larson's second time winning the annual exhibition race that took place away from Charlotte Motor Speedway for just the third time in its history. 

Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola all won segments of the night's preamble to the All-Star Race, the All-Star Open, to claim spots in the main event and Matt DiBenedetto was voted in by the fans to take the 21st starting position. The race featured six different segments with various tricks to keep the drivers, teams, and fans engaged in addition to an in-race timed pit stop where Chase Elliott's crew won an extra $100,000 by pitting their man the quickest. In the end it came down to a 10-lap winner-takes-all finale where Larson, Elliott, and Brad Keselowski battled to claim the night's prize with Larson collecting the spoils.

UPGRADE

Kyle Larson – Larson struck out to win the opening segment of Sunday's All-Star Race, stretching his time out front to another week and yet another track. He made a move on the outside in the final 10-lap sprint to the finish to

Texas Motor Speedway hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race for the first time Sunday evening, and it was Kyle Larson who went to Victory Lane for the third consecutive race. While it wasn't a points-paying race, the win did come with a million-dollar prize for him and the team. It was another impressive night from the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team that is hitting on all cylinders now, and it was Larson's second time winning the annual exhibition race that took place away from Charlotte Motor Speedway for just the third time in its history. 

Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola all won segments of the night's preamble to the All-Star Race, the All-Star Open, to claim spots in the main event and Matt DiBenedetto was voted in by the fans to take the 21st starting position. The race featured six different segments with various tricks to keep the drivers, teams, and fans engaged in addition to an in-race timed pit stop where Chase Elliott's crew won an extra $100,000 by pitting their man the quickest. In the end it came down to a 10-lap winner-takes-all finale where Larson, Elliott, and Brad Keselowski battled to claim the night's prize with Larson collecting the spoils.

UPGRADE

Kyle Larson – Larson struck out to win the opening segment of Sunday's All-Star Race, stretching his time out front to another week and yet another track. He made a move on the outside in the final 10-lap sprint to the finish to pass teammate Chase Elliott to battle Brad Keselowski in the closing laps to win his third consecutive race and second All-Star Race. Larson and his No. 5 team are the class of the field right now and momentum only seems to be building, too. Their primary focus will be to ride this wave through the playoffs and the championship finale. With three wins, nine top-fives, and 11 top-10s a championship run 1isn't inconceivable.

Chase Elliott – Elliott led 12 laps, finished third, and his team collected $100,000 for turning in the fastest four-tire pit stop in round 5 of Sunday's All-Star Race. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates showed Sunday night exactly why they have been the team to beat this season. All four drivers spent time out front, Kyle Larson won the race, and Elliott's crew were fastest on pit road. The team has seven total victories this season, of which Elliott has contributed one. The defending series champion also has eight top-fives and 10 top-10s from the first 16 races. As the playoffs approach, this is the organization every other team has their sights set on.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski came into last week's All-Star Race looking for some good breaks to fall his direction. The Team Penske driver was on a five-race streak with no top-10 finishes. The team's Fords had the pace to compete as Texas, though. Keselowski ended up leading five of the 100 laps run and was the closest competitor to knocking Larson off of his perch in the final 10-lap run to the finish. An impressive three-wide pass on Elliott left him in touch with Larson, who he then harried all the way to the finish. Keselowski came up short in the end, but may have walked away from the weekend getting what he most needed - a return to top form.

Matt DiBenedetto – DiBenedetto may have gotten an unexpected boost in his seemingly endless quest for a full-time future in the NASCAR Cup Series. The Wood Brother Racing driver's current contract ends with the season, and this has been a year-long audition for DiBendetto as he looks for a home in 2022. He has shown the capability to win on multiple occasions and Sunday night he won the fan vote to advance from the Open into the All-Star Race. The combination of speed and popularity could be little push team owners need to have DiBenedetto on their recruiting lists for next season. In the meantime he will keep his focus on earning a playoff spot. He is 17th in the standings, 60 points behind Chris Buescher in the final playoff position.

DOWNGRADE

Erik Jones – Jones was one of the drivers favored to advance from the Open into the All-Star Race, but a spin and contact with Daniel Suarez ended his night prematurely. The Richard Petty Motorsports was racing in the pack on the hot, slippery Texas surface when he got loose and was collected by the oncoming Suarez. There wasn't much either driver could do, and both were eliminated from competition due to the damage. Jones is doing his best to bring the No. 43 back to Victory Lane, but it has been a tough hill to climb. He has two top-10 finishes from 16 races so far this season and sits 25th in the championship standings.

Daniel Suarez – After turning in some impressive progress with debutant Trackhouse Racing this season Suarez was one of the logical choices to advance into the All-Star Race. Unfortunately, the team's night ended early after when Erik Jones lost control and spun. Suarez was a few cars back in traffic and could not avoid the No. 43, making hard right-front contact and he attempted to swerve away from the spinning machine. The damage immediately ended both teams' night and left them to focus on next week's race at Nashville. Suarez may not be in playoff contention, but his 22nd-spot in the championship standings is a nice spot for the first-year team. They've collected one top-five and two top-10s from the first 16 races so far.

Christopher Bell – The hot and slippery Texas surface was a challenge for drivers, and the All-Star entrants had the benefit of watching the Open drivers race first and seeing how difficult it was for them. Despite that advance warning, Bell found himself sideways just two turns into the main event. He did a terrific job to keep the car from sustaining significant damage, but that was virtually the last he was heard from. Bell finished the race 11th of 21 drivers with zero laps led. The young Joe Gibbs Racing driver likely has many more All-Star appearances ahead of him, but Sunday's try was not what he would have been hoping for. However, the season moves on and he does have a win and the spot in the playoffs that comes with that. 

Ross Chastain – Chastain continues to steadily increase his production this season with Chip Ganassi Racing, and that progress was on display Sunday night at Texas. After Tyler Reddick looked set to win the first stage of the Open Chastain reeled him in and forced a pass under the slippery conditions to take the lead and win. The pass was no small feat considering how hot and slick the track surface was, but Chastain had the settings that worked best to earn his way into the All-Star Race. He didn't disappoint in the main event either. The speed in his machine was evident throughout the 100-lap exhibition, and he even survived contact with Ryan Newman to keep the car off the wall and get to the finish. Confidence continues to build for him and the No. 42 team.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Aric Almirola – The current season has been one to forget for Almirola. He and the team have struggled much of the season and sit outside of the top 25 in the championship standings. That is relatively unknown territory for Stewart Haas Racing who are used to fighting for spots in the playoffs. Instead, Almirola has just one top-10 finish so far this year and entered the All-Star weekend on the heels of six consecutive finishes outside of the top 20. Almirola put that streak to bed by winning the Open to advance into the main show, though. While it is boost for him and the team, fantasy players will still want to be cautious as Nashville looms this week as the regular schedule resumes.

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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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