Larson Dominant in NASCAR's Return to North Wilkesboro
(NORTHWILKESBORO, NC – MAY 21, 2023 – RIS) Kyle Larson celebrated his 199th racetrack entry by dominating the 2023 NASCAR All-Star race, leading 145 of the 200 laps, including almost the entire second half of the race on his way to a million dollar payoff. Larson and Daniel Suarez were the only drivers to lead, with Suarez leading from the pole, leading the first 54 laps, then once at the mid-race competition caution before Larson resumed the lead.
Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher led the NASCAR All-Star race to the green flag waved by Ray Evernham to start the 200-lap race for a million-dollar payoff to the winner out of the 24car starting field. Evernham was the crew chief for Jeff Gordon, winner of the last NASCAR Cup race at the track, back in 1996. Buescher, unable to drop to the inside line, was in eleventh place after the first five laps, with Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin and William Byron the rest of the top five in pursuit of Suarez.
Ricky Stenhouse got high on the track as Ty Gibbs passed him and got tapped by Erik Jones, spinning and causing the first caution of the race on lap 16.
On the restart, Chase Briscoe, after starting outside of Suarez, got hung out in the top lane and fell back to fourth, between Joey Logano and Chase Elliott.
After getting caught speeding on pit road after his stop in the caution and starting last in the field on lap 18, Kyle Larson got into the fourth position in just over 30 laps, then took third from Logano on lap 51 and into second just a couple of laps later before being scored as the leader in lap 55.
William Byron and Kyle Busch both stopped early for fresh tires, Byron dropping to one lap down and Busch adding another lap to his deficit.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr dropped to one lap down when Larson started lapping cars. With 90 laps run, Larson’s lead on second place Suarez was over eleven seconds and growing. Bubba Wallace got around Suarez for second just five laps before the midpoint of the race.
The competition break caution came out on lap 100 with the field stopping for fuel and tires. Larson’s crew sent him back onto the track still in the lead, followed by Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe. Bell and Logano both were sent to the back of the field for uncontrolled tires in the pits and Chastain speeding out of the pits. Larson’s lead after just a few green-flag laps was already over a second ahead of Wallace.
With fifty laps left, Larson’s gap had grown to over three and a half seconds. His lap of 20.926 sec / 107.522, set after the most recent stop, is the best of any racer in the event, with Logano’s first lap on the track next, at 20.934 sec and 107.481 mph. With fewer than 30 laps left, Briscoe had become the fastest on the track, in fourth, while Larson’s gap over Wallace had dropped to just over three and a half seconds.
“I can’t even tell you what it means,” Larson beamed. “My third All-Star win at three different tracks – what an amazing car – everything the car did bad on Friday it did great tonight.” The win ties
Second place finisher Bubba Wallace commented that: “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. 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. Columbia, I want to get them to victory lane. Toyota – our Toyotas have been really strong. I’m pumped for Tyler (Reddick) finishing third. Just have to continue to carry the momentum and have some fun in Charlotte.”
Asked what he attributed Larson’s dominance to, Wallace responded: “his capability throughout the whole run. He could attack hard and have something there in the end…. Congrats to (Kyle) Larson. He’s been on a rail lately. We just have to keep going. Now we show up to our home turf.”
Wallace’s teammate at 23XI Racing, Tyler Reddick, commented that he: “needed a little bit on the balance, but The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD was really fast,” adding that he “made a mistake earlier in the race in the first 100 laps and let Kyle (Larson) squeeze by and he really mowed through the traffic.… We really started to push there in the end, and I had more in the tank than I thought. I wish I could have that back. Billy Scott (crew chief) and everyone on the box did a really good job of getting creative with that strategy earlier in the race to get us going in the right direction.”
Fifth-place finisher Chase Elliott: “I thought it was kinda what we were expecting. Once they took tires, they took control of the event."
Race Results: NASCAR All-Star Race, May 21, 2023 - North Wilkesboro Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, Tms Led, Laps Led, Status
1) 16, Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, 200, 2, 145, Running
2) 10, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota, 200, , , Running
3) 20, Tyler Reddick, No. 45 The Beast Unleashed Toyota, 200, , , Running
4) 5, Chase Briscoe, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford, 200, , , Running
5) 13, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 200, , , Running
6) 11, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Wrangler Ford, 200, , , Running
7) 1, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet, 200, 2, 55, Running
8) 21, Erik Jones, No. 43 STP Chevrolet, 200, , , Running
9) 23, Ty Gibbs #, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota, 200, , , Running
10) 3, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 200, , , Running
11) 18, Ross Chastain, No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, 200, , , Running
12) 7, Christopher Bell, No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota, 200, , , Running
13) 9, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Yahoo! Toyota, 199, , , Running
14) 12, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, 199, , , Running
15) 22, Josh Berry(i), No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 199, , , Running
16) 2, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fastenal Ford, 199, , , Running
17) 4, Austin Dillon, No. 3 BREZTRI Chevrolet, 199, , , Running
18) 15, Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Busch Light Ford, 198, , , Running
19) 8, Brad Keselowski, No. 6 Nexlizet Ford, 198, , , Running
20) 6, William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, 198, , , Running
21) 17, Austin Cindric, No. 2 Keystone Light Ford, 198, , , Running
22) 14, Kyle Busch, No. 8 Thorntons Chevrolet, 198, , , Running
23) 24, Noah Gragson #, No. 42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet, 197, , , Running
24) 19, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/Coca-Cola Chevrolet, 196, , , Running
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Total Race Length: 200 Laps, 125. Miles
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 20 Mins, 59 Secs.
Average Speed: 92.612 MPH
Margin of Victory: 4.537 Seconds
Comments: Kyle Larson has won the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, his third career victory in the special non-points NASCAR Cup Series event.
Cautions: 2 for 13 laps;
Laps: 17-20 (No. 43, 47 Incident Turn 4 [None]);
102-110 (Competition Break ).
Lead Changes: 3 between 2 drivers;
D. Suarez 1-54;
K. Larson 55-103;
D. Suarez 104;
K. Larson 105-200.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.