Defending winner Kyle Larson can equal records in NASCAR All-Star Race

By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service
Posted 6:00AM on Friday 17th May 2024 ( 2 months ago )

It’s a notable irony that Kyle Larson will be a primary focal point in this year’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Sunday, May 19 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and WDUN AM 550 & FM 102.9).

Among the 17 NASCAR Cup Series drivers already locked into the All-Star Race field and 20 others trying to ascend to the main event, Larson will be spending the least amount of time at the newly repaved 0.625-mile short track.

Former Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, now a full-time analyst with FOX Sports, has agreed to practice and qualify Larson’s car as Larson practices and qualifies his McLaren IndyCar for the Indianapolis 500, preparing for the “double” with the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26.

The schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will preclude Larson from competing at North Wilkesboro until Sunday—after Top 12, Last Chance and Fast Six qualifying concludes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

If the weather and transportation cooperate, Larson will line up against the 19 other drivers in the NASCAR All-Star Race with significant milestones on the line.

Larson is the defending winner of the race, an event he dominated in its first appearance at revitalized North Wilkesboro last year by leading 145 of 200 laps. With a victory, he would join the back-to-back winners club that currently has two members—Davey Allison (1991-1992) and Jimmie Johnson (2012-2013).

With three victories in the NASCAR All-Star Race, Larson is the only full-time active driver with more than one. Another win would tie him with Johnson for most all-time.

Larson is taking the details of the commute between Indy and North Wilkesboro in stride.

“I’m not stressed out by logistics at all,” he said on Wednesday during a video interview with reporters. “I feel like we’ve got a good plan. Yeah, I feel like kind of ‘Tell me where to be, tell me when to get in the car, tell me which car I’m getting in,’ and we’ll go.”

The 17 drivers already eligible for the main event have qualified either by winning a race in 2023 or 2024, or by being a former All-Star winner racing full-time or a former NASCAR Cup champion racing full-time.

Two other spots go to the top two finishers in the NASCAR All-Star Open, which precedes the All-Star Race (Sunday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and WDUN AM 550 & FM 102.9). The final berth in the main event goes to the winner of the Fan Vote.

Qualifying on Friday afternoon will set the field for a pair of heat races on Saturday, which will determine the starting order for the All-Star Race. The top qualifier on Friday earns the pole position for Heat No. 1.

If Larson is a focal point for the race, so are the tires that Goodyear is providing for the event. Each team will receive two sets each of faster “option” tires and more durable “prime” tires.

All drivers must start the All-Star Race on the option tires. There are planned cautions at approximately Lap 100 and Lap 150, which will give crew chiefs the possibility of using varying tire strategies.

All teams must execute four-tire pit stops during the Lap 100 “All-Star Caution.”

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race will feature a varied field

After a hiatus of 26 years, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series returned to North Wilkesboro Speedway for last year’s points race, won by Kyle Larson.

Larson, however, won’t be around to defend his victory in Saturday’s Wright Brand 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

That doesn’t mean there won’t be interlopers. CARS Tour late model stock car star Brenden “Butterbean” Queen will make his series debut in the No. 1 TRICON Garage Toyota.

Aric Almirola will attempt to qualify for his first CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race since 2012 in the No. 16 Hattori Enterprises Toyota.

NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Sammy Smith will make his second start of the season in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Dawson Sutton, 18, the Pro Late Model rookie of the year, will attempt to make the field for his series debut in the No. 26 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet.

Full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain will pilot the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, hoping to improve on last year’s ninth-place finish at North Wilkesboro.

The drivers enumerated above will be competing against Truck Series regulars, among them Ty Majeski, the 2023 runner-up, and Corey Heim, who led 75 laps in last year’s race (second to Larson’s 138) in finishing fifth.

Las Vegas winner Rajah Caruth will make his second start at North Wilkesboro, hoping to improve on last Friday’s 30th-place result at Darlington.

“Honestly, it’s really special to go to North Wilkesboro because I know the history, and I am a nerd about NASCAR as a whole,” Caruth said. “It’s been really cool to be part NASCAR’s return to a track with such a deep history.”

Kyle Larson, the driver of the #5 Chevrolet, celebrates with the one million dollar check in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo/Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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