Two hours prior to the NASCAR Cup Series’ 2021 All-Star Race, four drivers locked in their spots to race for $1 million late Sunday (June 13) evening.
Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola won the first, second and final rounds, respectively, of the All-Star Open to qualify for the main event. Matt DiBenedetto, who ran well in the Open, won the Fan Vote to secure the No. 21 as the 21st and final spot i an the All-Star Race’s lineup.
The 97-degree day begat a 145-degree on-track temperature and a race with a caution-filled opening segment.
Chaos erupted just moments into the opening round of the Open, with Chris Buescher hit with a drive-through penalty for getting to the start-finish line before pole sitter Reddick. Austin Cindric was also penalized for changing lanes before the green flag flew.
Three cautions peppered the opening segment, with the first on lap 4 when Bubba Wallace spun without contact. That was followed by a yellow less than a lap after the following restart for a Buescher spin after contact from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Meanwhile, Chastain started at the back after issues during inspection and was up to sixth by the third restart.
Reddick, who had led from the first lap onward, started alongside Chastain on the final restart with two laps to go. Chastain spoiled the No. 8’s domination in the segment, stealing the lead and pulling away to lock himself into the All-Star Race.
Reddick picked up where he left off from Round 1. Any battles in the second segment were waged behind the leader.
DiBenedetto ran second until a charge from Austin Cindric, heir to DiBenedetto in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21, occupied his attention, but he held off the No. 33 until Almirola scooted by both of them.
Almirola inched close to Reddick but could never quite get there, settling for second in the segment as Reddick locked himself in.
Almirola then inherited the lead with Reddick’s removal, never looking back. Buescher and Wallace had rebounded back into the top 10 from their earlier issues, but Buescher dueled with DiBenedetto for second and the No. 10 sailed away to take the checkered and secure a berth in his fourth All-Star Race.
After the race, the FOX Sports 1 booth dialed up DiBenedetto and informed him that he had won the fan vote, thereby completing the 21-car field for the main event. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are set to lead the field to green for a six-segment, three-inversion race.
The 100-lap All-Star Race will get going right around 8 p.m., with pre-race festivities airing prior to it on FOX Sports 1.
About the author
Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.