Kyle Larson routed the field at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Sunday night.
After drawing a pit road speeding penalty on the first caution of the night, Larson powered his way through the field on fresher tires, and took the lead on lap 55 of the 200-lap NASCAR All-Star Race.
From there, Larson drove away from the competition to score a dominant victory in the NASCAR Cup Series return to the historic North Carolina speedplant after 27 years.
“I can’t even tell you what it means. This is my third All-Star win and my third different track,” said Larson, who joins Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. tied for second in all-time wins in the event. “In a historical place like this, you guys and the crowd made this weekend so awesome. We could feel the atmosphere all weekend.”
Larson pocketed a million-dollar payday for his efforts in the non-points paying event. He also becomes the first driver to win All-Star races at three different tracks (Charlotte, Texas, North Wilkesboro). It also marks the 11th All-Star win for Hendrick Motorsports, coming with five different drivers.
“So much fun there. That was an old-school whipping for sure,” Larson said. “We had a great car on the long run there and was just thinking for sure there was going to be a caution. I got out to a big lead and I could see everybody’s cars were driving like crap in front of me, but I cannot thank this No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy team enough.”
Nothing was going to keep Larson out of victory lane, not even having to start shotgun on the field after that pit road penalty. He drew that penalty while using strategy on lap 16 under caution to get fresher tires.
“We were awful all weekend,” said Larson. “In practice, I was like the worst on the 30-lap average, and went backwards in a heat race yesterday. You obviously had some strategy work out there in the beginning, but we drove from dead last to the lead and checked out by 12 or 13 seconds. Then just could pace myself there that last run.”
Bubba Wallace was on the same tire strategy as Larson, and started the second half of the race on the outside of the front row. In the end, he didn’t have the speed he needed to compete with Larson, and Wallace had to settle for second.
“I didn’t know anything coming into this race, and after the first run, I had to go into conserve mode – conserve the rear tires,” said Wallace. “That was the biggest thing. After last night, I was really skeptical on how we were going to run – we weren’t very good. Even saving, I just didn’t have what he had. I thought we could close the gap a lot more than we did, but just didn’t have it. I’m proud of our efforts.”
Tyler Reddick started the night deep in the field, but came home with a third place finish, joining teammate Wallace to give 23XI Racing two out of the top three.
“The pit crew did a really good job of having a good pit stop and getting us a few there too at the halfway break,” said Reddick. “Our car was really strong – we saw that in practice on Friday. The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD had a lot of pace. I needed to make some different decisions in the race. I was in front of Kyle (Larson) in the race, made some mistakes and let him get ahead. Things to look back on and wonder what if, but solid night for sure for 23XI.”
Chase Briscoe surged late, and came home in fourth, the highest finishing Ford on the night.
“Yeah, we were really, really fast at the end,” said Briscoe. “I felt like if I could have ever just got the lead, I would have been hard to beat, but I’m sure a lot of other guys would say that too. It was definitely frustrating.”
Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott, recorded a fifth place finish.
“Based on what we saw in practice on Friday, I thought it was about what we were expecting from there,” Elliott said. “It was pretty anticlimactic, I would say for the most part.”
Ryan Blaney, polesitter Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs, and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
Earlier in the night, Josh Berry scored the win in the All-Star Open, an event for drivers not eligible for the All-Star Race, to move on to the main event. He would finish in 15th Gibbs finished in second to earn the second transfer spot, and would finish ninth. Noah Gragson, who was involved in a multi-car crash during the All-Star Open, made the cut to the All-Star Race on the fan vote, and came away with a 23rd place finish.
NASCAR Cup Series
North Wilkesboro Speedway – North Wilkesboro, NC
NASCAR All-Star Race – May 21, 2023
1. (16) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
2. (10) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.
3. (20) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 200.
4. (5) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.
5. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.
7. (1) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (21) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (23) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 200.
10. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 200.
11. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (7) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.
13. (9) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 199.
14. (12) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 199.
15. (22) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 199.
16. (2) Chris Buescher, Ford, 199.
17. (4) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 199.
18. (15) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 198.
19. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 198.
20. (6) William Byron, Chevrolet, 198.
21. (17) Austin Cindric, Ford, 198.
22. (14) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 198.
23. (24) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 197.
24. (19) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Chevrolet, 196.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 92.612 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 20 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.537 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 2 for 13 laps.
Lead Changes: 3 among 2 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Suarez 1-54;K. Larson 55-103;D. Suarez 104;K. Larson 105-200.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Kyle Larson 2 times for 145 laps; Daniel Suarez 2 times for 55 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,23,45,14,9,12,99,43,54,22
NASCAR Cup Series
North Wilkesboro Speedway – North Wilkesboro, NC
NASCAR All-Star Open – May 21, 2023
1. (2) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 100.
2. (1) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 100.
3. (9) Aric Almirola, Ford, 100.
4. (8) Ryan Preece, Ford, 100.
5. (10) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 100.
6. (16) J.J. Yeley(i), Ford, 100.
7. (15) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 100.
8. (12) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 100.
9. (3) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 100.
10. (11) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 100.
11. (4) Harrison Burton, Ford, 100.
12. (14) Ryan Newman, Ford, 97.
13. (6) Michael McDowell, Ford, 97.
14. (5) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 58.
15. (7) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 52.
16. (13) Chandler Smith(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 49.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 80.128 mph.
Time of Race: 0 Hrs, 46 Mins, 48 Secs. Margin of Victory: .571 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 18 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T. Gibbs # 1-43;J. Berry(i) 44-55;J. Haley 56;J. Berry(i) 57-67;T. Gibbs # 68-77;J. Berry(i) 78-100.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Ty Gibbs # 2 times for 53 laps; Josh Berry(i) 3 times for 46 laps; Justin Haley 1 time for 1 lap.