It’s no secret Kyle Busch has won a lot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He’s even won a championship (2015). But he had made 11 starts in the sport’s All-Star Race without bringing home the trophy. It’s also well known that Busch was hungry to pick up a win in a Cup car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Cross that one off of the list.
Busch made a bold move under leader Brad Keselowski on the start of the final stage and made it pay off with his first NASCAR All-Star Race victory. Busch moved to the low side of the No. 2 Penske Ford, nearly running into the grass. Keselowski was tapped by Kyle Larson entering turn one, saving the car from spinning. He faded to tenth at the checkered flag.
For Larson, his runner-up finish was another All-Star disappointment. Larson won the first two stages, came home third in the next, and second at the finish. Larson also nearly won the event last season, getting into the wall late while battling Joey Logano. The contact certainly cost him a shot at the victory in that race.
This time, it was pit road that bit Larson. Losing three spots on the final set of stops, he dropped from first to fourth and lost the advantage of earning the best average finish through three stages. The craziness of the ensuing restart just cost him enough track position to make a run.
One of the quirks of this All-Star Race is that teams were given a set of softer tires, referred to as “option” tires to use at their discretion. As expected, this brought about a variety of strategies.
Two drivers, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez started the race on the options. A handful of drivers then used the option set of tires in stage two. One of those, Jimmie Johnson, struck quickly on the restart moving from fourth to second. However, it wasn’t enough to chase down Larson at the end of that stage.
Johnson was able to claim the third stage of the event and started the final 10 laps in second. But that’s where the No. 48 stalled out, Busch using the advantage of clean air to pull away and cruise ot victory.
Despite the effort to rev up the action with tire strategy, the softer tire compound didn’t appear to make as much of a difference as expected. The speed and handling advantage involved seemed to be minimal. The race was rather tame by All-Star Race standards. There were no cautions for contact or spins and Matt Kenseth was the only mechanical failure, suffering an oil leak during stage 1.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action again in Charlotte next weekend for the Coca- Cola 600. Catch all the action live at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.
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